Earlier this year, MedPro Wellness, based in Cranford, acquired SelfHelpWorks, out of San Diego, in a deal that brought both companies under one roof, with Clark Lagemann and Tim Aumueller as co-CEOs.
Now Avidon Health, as the combined, Cranford-based company is known, believes it has figured out how to scale a medical wellness business while solving the mystery of how to successfully engage people to take charge of their own health.
NJTechWeekly.com spoke to Lagemann about Avidon’s most recent product release, Engagement Rx, his bootstrapped company and what he believes the startup can achieve.
“Engagement Rx is our white-label, HIPAA-compliant suite of digital tools that will allow other companies to drive better health and wellness engagement for their diverse populations,” Lagemann told NJTechWeekly.com. “Our goal is to create sustainable outcomes for individuals by delivering a personalized, results-driven experience,” Aumueller said in a news release. “Engagement Rx is developed on a solid foundation of science-backed methods, which are rooted in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and other leading behavior change frameworks. By combining user-friendly technology with evidenced-based coaching techniques, we’re helping people lead healthier, happier lives.”
While Engagement Rx is one complete solution, it’s comprised of several core components that each contribute to the engagement process, the company said in a release. Those components are:
- Engagement technology specifically deployed to automate communications, track data and drive accountability;
- Cognitive behavioral training courses and microlearning content to break down harmful beliefs, thoughts and emotions, and replace them with empowering cognitive responses;
- Care team resources, including engagement training (in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Patient Engagement Program), Avidon’s Coach+ CRM and highly trained staff to support population health initiatives.
Getting people to take the first step
There are no shortage of health care options and solutions out there, Lagemann said.
“All you have to do is look on the App Store or on the web,” he said. “For years, we were one of those solutions, but a big problem remained: How do you get someone to actually take the first step of either downloading, signing up or accessing whatever tool you have? And, until people deliver solutions that lessen the learning, adoption or ‘engagement curve,’ as we call it, they’re not going to be successful at changing health care in a meaningful way.
“Our focus completely is on the top end of that funnel: getting someone to really engage very meaningfully in establishing the trust and connection. And, over time, that connection and trust allow us to ask them to do something more difficult.”
Avidon’s hybrid tools meet people where they are, regardless of personality type, learning preferences, language or culture, Lagemann said. Engagement Rx focuses on the individual, not just the disease. It allows people to learn about how to improve their sleep, reduce their tobacco consumption or control their diabetes, for example, in the manner that they want to be taught.
The method and the market
Avidon’s target markets include large hospital systems looking to engage communities that they service, large insurance carriers and health and wellness vendors. For instance, Lagemann helps the vendors package Avidon’s solutions for large companies to help their employees stay well. Right now, Avidon serves more than 4 million people, Lagemann told NJTechWeekly.com.
The company’s product tackles the most intractable problems in health care: the chronic health conditions linked to those hard-to-break habits that drive 85% of health care costs in the country.
“We service all those categories with a suite of tools that include educational materials, as well as training, personal coaching sessions and virtual coaching sessions that are prerecorded to engage someone to take action,” he said. “And then, on the other side, we have stress management, sleep, healthy eating and physical activity education, so you’re really catching everything that we see are the biggest drivers of health care costs out there.”
“Our talent is across many states now. We’ve recruited from all parts of the country because there is just such an opportunity for really great talent, from different places. We’re not limiting ourselves to within 45 minutes of Cranford, New Jersey, or 45 minutes from San Diego, California. We are looking anywhere there’s an internet connection.”
— Clark Lagemann, co-CEO, Avidon Health
The original company, MedPro Wellness, was formed about 10 years ago, and Lagemann has been an ambassador for his brand, both as its CEO and as the founder of Scarlet Startups, a Rutgers University Meetup. MedPro Wellness had many early successes. About seven years ago, the company began working on a concept designed to help doctors help their patients leave the office and get healthier. They acquired some well-respected customers, including RWJBarnabas Health, based in West Orange, which used the company’s services to engage both patients and employees. Another New Jersey customer is Bergen County.
While the concept worked well and customers were happy, the team members wondered if there wasn’t something more they could do to fulfill their mission. Last year, during the pandemic, the MedPro Wellness team sat down and reexamined their strategy.
“We found that what we did solve very well was getting people engaged, getting people to enroll, participate and complete a set of activities that can help transform their lives,” Lagemann said.
When the team had that “aha” moment, he began looking for digital solutions that would help his company better scale its engagement. The answer came in the form of a company that MedPro Wellness was already working with: SelfHelpWorks.
“They were doing a beautiful job of driving meaningful behavior change,” he said. “However, they were doing it completely digitally, and there was a feeling that they, too, were missing an essential piece of the puzzle.”
That began the talks that led to the acquisition of SelfHelpWorks and the creation of Avidon Health.
“The sum of our parts is much more powerful than the individual parts by themselves,” Lagemann said.
The combined company is on a mission to change lives by addressing the engagement problem in health care, he added.
Fueled with the right type of optimism
Lagemann discussed the issue of combining companies. He noted that, as he is now co-CEO, he has to make sure that the team environment is “really successful, that we keep the culture we created, but also continue to innovate to drive a really great business forward.”
He added that the original team and team leaders on the West Coast are fueled with the “right type of optimism” to get to where Avidon wants to go. The company is growing. At the time NJTechWeekly.com talked with Lagemann, the company was onboarding five new employees. As all the work is remote, they are from all over the country.
“Our talent is across many states now,” he said. “We’ve recruited from all parts of the country because there is just such an opportunity for really great talent, from different places. We’re not limiting ourselves to within 45 minutes of Cranford, New Jersey, or 45 minutes from San Diego, California. We are looking anywhere there’s an internet connection.”
MedPro Wellness was known for its camaraderie, so Lagemann said the company is duplicating that culture online. For example, it holds an all-hands meeting once a month, and, at the end of that meeting, people get thrown into random groups to discuss a topic. Another event simulates the kind of interaction you’d get at a watercooler.
The leadership team also frequently repeats the company’s big, audacious mission: “Our goal is to change lives.”
With that as a rallying cry, the right people get connected to the mission, he said, and everyone is on the same page.