A letter from our Founder & CEO
My life was saved by a doctor who insisted that I participate in my own healthcare.
It was sometime in December of 2011, and a decade of entrepreneurship had taken its toll. I was 50 pounds heavier than I am today, a shattered ball of nerves…
My mental and physical health were in tatters as non-stop work and consistently failing to prioritize my own health had left me pre-diabetic, and on a path to have a heart attack before my newborn son finished high school.
And it was at this crucible moment that my doctor asked me if I was willing to rise to the occasion—was I willing to do what it would take to see my son grow up? This question acknowledged what many of us already know—that all the science, all the amazing healthcare providers, and all the innovative medicines in the world can’t reverse chronic disease without the patient participating in their own healthcare.
It has been a decade since participation restored my own health. My life has been so much better for it. Apart from something unexpected, I know I’ll be able to show up for my sons (now two), and for the other important people in my life.
I believe so strongly in the power of Participatory Healthcare that it has inspired our next company.
We are called AndHealth, and our mission is to help people reverse chronic diseases through a new kind of digital healthcare. We’re starting with migraine and autoimmune conditions, which create suffering for about 30 million people in the US.
Coming out of stealth mode this week, we are building on a lifetime of work for the scientists and doctors that have helped us pioneer our disease reversal approach. You can read our press release here.
Ironically, it was the genomic revolution that finally closed the chapter on the idea that we might solve our way out of chronic illnesses the same way we address infectious disease and acute care medicine. Unlike the breakthroughs in those areas that have doubled life expectancy over the past 100 years1, we know that chronic diseases are failures in physiological function arising from a multitude of sources, demanding a treatment approach that addresses the distinct root causes of disease for each patient. Frequently, addressing these root causes will require behavioral changes by the patient, rather than medical intervention to the patient. In other words, Participatory Healthcare.
I believe we stand today at the beginning of what will be a great transformation in medicine. A transformation in which we develop the tools to triumph over chronic disease like we have prevailed over so many of the challenges that have faced humanity before. Rather than resigning ourselves to the “management” of chronic illness, we will embrace the fact that many diseases are reversible—or can be brought into remission—but only if the patient can change their behavior to stimulate the gene expression of health, rather than of disease. This is an incredibly hopeful idea—that despite our genetics, our behavior can usually allow us to have the life we want, rather than the life we were born into.
If the great majority of our health is based on behavior, then it is imperative that our new healthcare system help people make changes to better support their health. Change can be hard, and in fact the modern healthcare system has in many ways been built around asking patients to do very little other than submit to the system itself.
But if there is a core belief that underlies AndHealth, it is that people can change if we give them the support to do so. We built AndHealth around the emerging science of human behavior, and the more we learned about this science, the more we realized how much opportunity there is to do better.
One big lever is to focus on supporting the changes people want to make, rather than pushing them into something they don’t care much about. We do this with what we call Disease Targeting, which is just a fancy way to say that we start first with high-priority problems for the patient, rather than focusing on wellness or cardiometabolic diseases like diabetes, which have frequently been the entry point for next-generation healthcare services. Disease Targeting increases ROE (“return on effort”) for the patient’s participation in their healthcare. And since any given patient’s chronic illnesses are likely to share root causes, the less tractable diseases for polychronic patients tend to be solved as a “side effect” of addressing the patient’s highest-priority condition.
That’s why we’re starting with migraine and autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. These diseases are painful and disruptive—inflicting unnecessary suffering upon about 30 million working people per year, especially women who have historically suffered from a lack of access to good treatment options, contributing to the gender wage gap and a host of other health inequities.
Migraine and autoimmune conditions are highly addressable with the right approach. We’ve recently completed a clinical study in which 60% of the chronic migraine sufferers that went through the AndHealth treatment protocol experienced disease reversal, such that they would no longer be diagnosable with migraine, according to the ICHD-3 criteria. Those are blockbuster results.
Beyond harnessing motivation, we can make change easier. We do this by switching from care that is episodic and on-premise in the traditional healthcare system, to care that is continuous and virtual. And we keep the changes small—the patient doesn’t need to become an Olympic athlete in order to reverse their disease. Precise targeting of root causes allows the patient to adopt small but high-impact behaviors, rather than struggling with unrealistic and vague aspirations like “eat better” or “exercise more.” With Participatory Healthcare, the patient’s daily participation in their treatment plan becomes not just possible, but convenient, easy, and dramatically less expensive.
Our industry has begun to use the term Digital Health to describe this new kind of continuous and virtual healthcare. Part software company and part healthcare provider, patients experience AndHealth through an app on their phone as a convenient way to access our disease reversal clinic, where they learn the drivers of their illness, and are supported by a care team of physicians and health coaches in a treatment plan that has been proven to reverse disease. Because we are a healthcare provider, we can optimize medications, use labs, and collaborate with the patient’s other providers.
We’re offering AndHealth through employers that want to support the health and engagement of their people. Our financial model aligns interests with the employer around outcomes, and guarantees patient participation. Individuals can also sign up for the service directly, if their employer doesn’t work with AndHealth yet.
If we can help even a small fraction of people with migraine and autoimmune diseases to reclaim their lives, this company will make an impact that is worthwhile.
But we think we can do so much more, by collaborating with our healthcare system to create a new model of care that transforms how our country addresses chronic diseases, which according to the CDC now account for 90% of US healthcare expenditures.
And while we think this new specialty care model can be transformative, it isn’t disruptive. The name AndHealth symbolizes our commitment to whole-person healthcare and to working alongside the industry to improve how we treat chronic disease. This approach is demonstrated in our partnership with the American Medical Association’s innovation arm, Health2047, and our customer relationships with employers, insurance brokers, health systems, pharma companies, and others.
One of the greatest advantages I’ve had in my life is to work alongside an incredible group of people. AndHealth has already given me a chance to learn from some amazing new people in my life, and also a chance to get back together with colleagues I’ve been working with for a decade or more. One belief we all share is to use entrepreneurship as a force for positive change in the world.
When we solve important problems in a way where everyone wins, we can get the help of our industry to do something much bigger than ourselves. And when we use our company’s growth to expand our capacity to support employees and the community, and to make our service more accessible to patients, we make the world just a little bit better. For me and for the incredible team I get the chance to build this company with, that makes this a journey worth taking. We represent this idea in our People First core value, which speaks to putting the patient first in everything we do, and to approaching our work with kindness and humanity.
We’ve been honored by the trust of an incredible group of people who share the belief that everyone deserves a life free of suffering, and everyone can change. We’re especially grateful for the patients that are the heroes of this journey, for the employers and brokers that are bringing this care to their employees, and for our financial partners including Francisco Partners, Health2047 Capital Partners (American Medical Association’s partner venture fund), Kirkland & Ellis, and Twofold Ventures, who have funded AndHealth with more than $57 million in growth capital to bring disease reversal through Participatory Healthcare to the world.
It is an honor to participate in this journey with each of you.
For press inquiries and interview requests, please email [email protected]