Payers, Patient Engagement

Bright Health cofounder and president on consumer-centric healthcare

At MedCity INVEST Twin Cities, Bright Health cofounder and president Kyle Rolfing talked to Medical Alley Association president and CEO Shaye Mandle about why a focus on patients and consumers is key to success.

From left: Medical Alley Association president and CEO Shaye Mandle moderates a session with Bright Health cofounder and president Kyle Rolfing

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the exciting technologies coming to the healthcare space. But amidst all these changes and developments, organizations shouldn’t lose sight of one part that’s central to the industry: the patient.

Minneapolis-based Bright Health, a health insurance startup, started with a focus on the consumer.

“There’s huge technology that is part of Bright Health,” cofounder and president Kyle Rolfing said at MedCity INVEST Twin Cities on October 12. “But it never once started with any technology. None. It was, ‘What is a disruptive business model that has a meaningful value proposition to consumers that is sustainable and fundable?’ That’s where it started.”

The company works with health systems to codevelop insurance plans. It made its debut in Colorado through a collaboration with Centura Health. Earlier this year, it announced plans to expand to the Phoenix, Arizona and Birmingham, Alabama markets in 2018.

Rolfing said Bright Health hasn’t faced much pushback in delivering this model. The startup approached various systems and said, “We’d like to build a health plan completely around you.”

According to Rolfing, most health systems responded with interest, partially because they were contemplating taking a similar approach themselves and needed assistance and additional capabilities to deliver it. A few turned Bright Health down because they already had plans to create such a model. Others were not ready to take the plunge, as fee-for-service was still working for them.

Despite this consumer-centric approach working for Bright Health, Rolfing noted that many payers and health systems struggle to keep the patients at the center.

Because health insurers follow the money, it’s difficult for them to make bold changes in this area. “The vast majority of the dollars they have are B2B2C,” Rolfing said. “You’re going to do what’s best in order to keep those dollars flowing.”

And though hospitals desire to understand consumers, they’re even further behind than the health plans, particularly when it comes to bringing in talent to help, he noted.

Looking ahead, Rolfing believes the upcoming opportunities in healthcare won’t be around point solutions. He compared the situation to a vendor selling the different parts of an iPhone, like the camera and the calculator, separately. Healthcare technology companies are giving consumers separate solutions instead of packaging them together into one fluid product. That, he said, is where the focus needs to be.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Shaye Mandle’s name in the excerpt and caption.

Photo: Matthias Orfield