Brenda Schmidt – Solera Health
Call it the match.com for health care—a platform that connects people to a curated and managed network of digital apps and in-person community providers in order to help them maintain and improve their well-being.
The technology offering presents a cost-saving approach to ensure that care continues beyond the four walls of a clinical setting and into the community by bridging the health-resource gaps that exist where people live, work, play, pray and shop.
So explains Brenda Schmidt, the passionate and energetic CEO and founder of the Phoenix-based Solera Health—an integrated health network that’s making its mark as an industry disrupter.
Solera’s novel marketplace model has transformed a previously chaotic landscape into a curated ecosystem of integrated solutions for monitoring, measuring and improving health. The business model is based on contracting with health plans and employers to better prevent and manage chronic health conditions and serving as the clearinghouse for outcomes-based claims payments.
“In health care today, it’s vital to focus on the whole person and address not only their physical and behavior health but their barriers to health as well,” she tells Vision in January. “Solera was built to connect each person with the community or digital programs and services that meet their specific needs and preferences. This is accomplished through individualized pairing with available resources and continuous engagement along multiple dimensions of health. We’re combining a holistic approach with personalized matching that so often isn’t effectively addressed in today’s existing health care system which remains fragmented.”
Schmidt cites the example of person living with Type-2 diabetes—the chronic condition that Solera used to successfully test its business model, beginning in 2016.
A person living with diabetes manages his or her health in the context of his or her community and may require resources beyond traditional blood glucose monitoring and medication management that are part of the clinical or medical approach.
While multiple non-clinical services and programs may be available to them, most people are unaware of the community or digital solutions that can help them better manage their diabetes. In these instances, Solera reaches out to individuals covered by a health plan, making them aware of benefits available through the company’s extensive community and digital network.
Solera’s provider partners include community resources such as Weight Watchers (now WW), Kroger, Albertsons, local nonprofit agencies and several digital apps that offer evidence-based lifestyle management programs and support individuals’ social service needs. The goal is to provide ongoing program support and drive sustainable lifestyle changes through remote monitoring and feedback, one-on-one coaching, peer support, and group counseling.
In its clearinghouse function, Solera submits medical claims to the payer for individuals who meet sustained engagement and clinical outcomes and manages payment to network providers. “A win-win-win scenario,” Schmidt adds, explaining that all parties share the common goal of promoting sustainable healthy lifestyle changes and improving clinical outcomes.
“The diabetes prevention program was our way of proving the viability of our model integrating highly fragmented community and digital providers that were paid for outcomes through medical claims,” Schmidt explains. “Our payer clients recognize the value Solera offers by linking members with an entire economy of community and digital solutions that has otherwise been too fragmented for people to discover, explore and coordinate.”
Schmidt describes Solera’s focus areas as having three components: physical health, behavioral health and social supports. A stool, after all, needs three sturdy legs.
Good health, good business
Health plans and employers are increasingly realizing the valuable role that community and digital providers can play when it comes to improving health outcomes. Solera’s model eliminates the need to evaluate, contract and manage multiple point solutions. To date, Solera has contracted with 45 health plans representing over 40 million covered lives for its national network of programs and services.
Solera’s model is driving industry-leading engagement and outcomes by partnering with solution providers that meet the varied needs of a diverse target population. Based on the encouraging results of the diabetes prevention program, Solera has extended the potential reach and impact of its technology platform and network model to now support obesity and cardiovascular risk reduction, chronic condition management, financial security, social services, substance abuse and mental health.
Given that there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to health care, Solera’s framework is gaining traction as digital apps continue to enter the market and hyper-local community programs and services are increasingly recognized as a valuable adjunct to primary care.
“We’ve successfully enabled community organizations to be part of the health care ecosystem and we’ve expanded their role well beyond lifestyle and preventive medicine,” Schmidt says. “And now we’re continuing to evolve that model to address other issues challenging health including social determinants, addiction and behavioral health.”
Exponentially, it would seem. In 2017 Solera raised $18.3 million in a Series B round led by Adams Street Partners, bringing its total funding raised beyond $30 million.
In Schmidt’s words, she has a dream team of executive leadership led by Chief Health Officer Sandeep Wadhwa, noted for his work with vulnerable populations. There’s also President and CEO Ian Gordon, formerly with Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield, and an advisory board that includes Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor, who served as secretary of Health and Human Services under President Barack Obama.
Dietician Michelle Berger Marshall, formerly the managing director of Feeding America, joined the Solera team last year to lead the company’s social determinants of health business. The new year saw Dr. Andrey Ostrovsky—whose credentials include co-chairing the National Academy of Medicine’s opioid prevention and treatment group—come aboard as chief medical officer for behavioral health.
Each individual shares the mission Schmidt embarked upon decades ago, although she wasn’t always sure which direction to take.
Science always on her mind, Schmidt majored in microbiology as an Indiana University undergrad and completed a Master’s in immunology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Then came an MBA at Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business.
“I have too creative a streak to be a clinician,” Schmidt explains. “Rather than specializing in individual care, I wanted to impact the whole system of health care.”
Hence a series of high-impact positions beginning with a 1990 to 2004 tenure at Baxter Healthcare Corp., which deployed her long term in Latin America to develop the clinical nutrition market. She’d go on to be CEO of Viridian Health in Phoenix for the next 11 years, part of that time as an adjunct professor at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, and serve on various boards.
All valuable experience for what she would conceive in 2015 by mixing health care, business and social media.
“The hallmark of a good entrepreneur isn’t just to do something better,” says the married mother of three grown children. “It’s also about doing something differently, and that was creating a technological platform to ensure care continued from clinical settings to the community as a way to solve health care inequity.”
Schmidt recalls such inequity in Panama, Guatemala, Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina, and reminds of U.S. populations that aren’t appreciably better. No excuse should suffice in this country, she says.
Especially not the fragmented non-clinical systems that Schmidt and her team are intent on bringing together.
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