HomeRule BreakersAndrea's Mission: Transforming Healthcare with ConnectWell's Digital Health Solutions

Andrea’s Mission: Transforming Healthcare with ConnectWell’s Digital Health Solutions

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As part of the Morning Lazziness series about empowering women who encourage and do incredible things with their ideas in society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Bloom.

Andrea is a seasoned healthcare executive and entrepreneur with 30 years of experience in the healthcare industry in various product development, marketing, international market expansion, business development, and consulting roles. She is a mission-driven leader determined to flip the paradigm of healthcare by placing the consumer at the center — empowering people to be active participants in their health and well-being. In her role as CEO, Andrea has elevated ConnectWell to be an essential digital health ecosystem partner for companies and organizations that are redesigning healthcare delivery. She is a sought out speaker and panelist, has spoken at Stanford and UC Berkeley business schools, has been published in TedEd, and serves on the HR.com Employee Well-being Advisory Board.

ConnectWell is a leading-edge provider of digital health and wellness content that is science-based and designed for a consumer audience. ConnectWell selectively curates health content from trusted sources to provide the latest standard of care guidelines and scientific findings on health, wellness, disease management, and nutrition. Content is packaged for digital delivery with rich graphic elements, and written for a wide-ranging consumer audience. A broad scope of healthcare providers, health engagement platforms, benefit providers, employers, libraries, and communities license ConnectWell’s content for integration into their platforms to scale health literacy and engage their populations in their health and well-being.

Andrea received a BA in Economics from University of California, Berkeley and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Here’s what we found out about Andrea’s daily routine, followed by an exclusive Q+A.

Can you share the story behind your journey as an entrepreneur? What inspired you to start your own business?

I had been working in the healthcare industry and spent almost a decade at Johnson & Johnson in their diabetes device division.

But it was not until I was working as an independent consultant to the medical device industry, when I had more space to process what was going on in the healthcare system and think more independently. When you work for a company, you are hired to use your brainpower to support the company’s goals and objectives, not to say “our healthcare system is dysfunctional, let’s see how we can change the incentives and support improved health outcomes”. Companies are typically focused on increasing market share, accelerating growth, increasing profits, and delivering value to their shareholders.

It was during this time when I was free to think for myself and question the existing paradigm of healthcare and when I started to shift my thinking:

The typical first line of treatment in our healthcare system is to treat the symptom rather than the root cause of the disease. For example in Type 2 diabetes, when a person is given drugs to manage diabetes without the individual changing their lifestyle in a meaningful way (diet and exercise) – their  disease will continue to progress, they will need more medication, eventually need insulin and they will likely end up having serious comorbidities as a result of the progression of their illness including: nerve damage, loss of vision, kidney and heart problems, and possible lower limb amputation.

I had my Aha moment when I was volunteering at Bearskin Meadow Camp, a diabetes camp for children with Type 1 diabetes, during family week. Type 1 diabetes is not something that people can prevent. It is an incurable autoimmune disease that typically impacts children and young adults and results in their inability to product insulin. The treatment requires around the clock self-management around blood glucose monitoring, insulin delivery, diet and exercise.

At the camp, I participated in the educational forums with the parents on diet, nutrition and disease management. It was at these educational forums where my light bulb moment occurred and I realized that if families can learn how to manage Type 1 diabetes which can be life-threatening if not controlled well, families who are not impacted by Type 1 diabetes can learn how to take care of each other to prevent metabolic syndrome, prediabetes, and Type 2 diabetes, and reduce obesity. Each day People with Type 1 make decisions that impact their health and as a result they typically are much healthier than people with Type 2 diabetes who acquired their illness after many years of an unhealthy lifestyle. People with Type 1 diabetes do not have the luxury of not paying attention to their health as it can be life-threatening and perhaps this is a gift because they take care of their health continuously. This concept of self-care is something we need to instill in every person – that our bodies need care and are not to be neglected.

Thus I founded ConnectWell and that has been my career focus since 2010.

What challenges have you faced as a woman in the business world, and how have you overcome them? 

All of them – sexual harassment, gender discrimination, underemployment, pay inequity, pregnancy discrimination, you name it, I have experienced it. Putting myself at the helm of a company through founding it and leading it has eliminated all issues around gender. People want to work with the Founder & CEO of a company and therefore they need to get over any of their gender biases to gain access. I encourage more women to run for public office and found companies so that they don’t have barriers created by other people holding them back.

How do you balance your professional and personal life as an entrepreneur?

Schedule flexibility is key to create the spaces in life where you can provide adequate attention to your personal life. I work tremendous hours, but I set my schedule and make sure that personal life is also a priority.

What strategies have you found most effective for networking and building connections in your industry?

Attending conferences (virtual or in-person), webinars, forums and networking at these conferences with like-minded people when there is an intersection in the work we are doing.

How do you approach mentorship and seeking guidance in your entrepreneurial journey?

My spouse is an entrepreneur and he is on the board of my company – so I have a built-in coach.

Can you talk about a specific setback or failure you’ve experienced in your business, and how you bounced back from it?

As an entrepreneur there are so many setbacks that it is just part of the deal. We try to ensure that our company is resilient and that is what gets us through each challenge.

In what ways do you prioritize diversity and inclusion within your company or startup?

People in our industry are diverse and broad thinkers, so it is not difficult to create a diverse team.

How do you stay motivated and resilient during tough times in your business?

Staying focused on the Mission of ConnectWell keeps me going. Our team is dedicated to helping empower people in their health and well-being through scaling health literacy. Knowing that what we do ultimately is helping people live better lives keeps us stay motivated.

What advice would you give to other aspiring women entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Stay open to evolving your business as new inputs and opportunities arise.

Can you share a memorable success or milestone that you’ve achieved in your entrepreneurial career?

Entering the Library Channel was a key milestone for ConnectWell. We did this because a head librarian asked for a meeting with ConnectWell and after our demo she insisted that we serve public libraries as ConnectWell was better than anything she was able to license for her library. It is so validating for our team when people come to us and tell us how our product can serve their customer base.

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