First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Betsy Weaver: My family and my team’s family at work are all fine and healthy, thank you. Luckily, except for one individual, we’ve avoided any direct contact with Covid. The world has changed, and when people say they “want to get back to normal,” we have to remind ourselves there is no going back, only forward. The new normal will permanently change our relationship with the Internet, work, and each other. We have to approach it with an excitement of a new, permanent way of being together… We are all adjusting to it. There may be some wonderful benefits but challenges, too, from working remotely, expecting to have the same results as when we could work face-to-face and interact directly with clients and customers.
Our tagline at UbiCare is “Making Us All Better.” And we mean that in both the most personal and broadest senses. Every day we work to make patient and provider relationships better, care for those usually disenfranchised, better assess individuals, and our relationship with others. Being an entrepreneur and leading a startup business – or even one that like us has reinvented itself twice – is now both extraordinarily exciting and daunting.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded UbiCare.
Betsy Weaver: My career began with completing a degree at Harvard University and working in the Carter administration. I was looking at how the US Government cared for families with children who had special medical needs. At the same time, I come from a family of entrepreneurs. Both my dad and my grandfather started businesses. I inherited this passion and next moved on to starting a group of regional parenting publications. I was one of the originators of that niche marketplace. When I sold that business, I realized that my destiny was to be in entrepreneurship focused on caring for families.
I started this current company realizing that there was specific, direct, digital support required between hospitals, private practices, and patients. We were one of the first companies to offer that to hospitals way back in 2003.
How does UbiCare innovate?
Betsy Weaver: UbiCare innovates by understanding hospitals’ needs as they strive to serve patients in this new digital world, where patients are essentially more easily connected through technology than they often are in face-to-face interactions. Plus, research suggests that 60% of medical outcomes actually come from outside the four walls and less directly from in-person doctor appointments.
We innovate by listening. We recognize the biggest issues and pain points for our customers. We have a small, agile team and a top-notch platform that enables us to respond and produce new products, content, and services more quickly than many companies.
We innovate with data. We are data junkies. It matters to us completely to understand the how and why behind the impact of our products. Hence, we built a flexible, scalable platform that delivers evidence-based content while also collecting the data on each patient interaction. When we started in 2003, no one was looking at data. Our innovation builds from the knowledge and, frankly, the experience of making mistakes and then coming out the other side and getting it right ahead of others.
We innovate by seeing our audience. We always assume that there is a way to meet our clients’ needs and, ultimately, their patients. The audience has changed over time. We are now connecting healthcare with millennials – the first generation of digital natives -. We need to continue to transform communications to recognize their style of content consumption in a way that also improves the workflow for the providers.
Our largest client is the Department of Defense. We provide their digital patient engagement program for moms and babies worldwide, which has become a standard of care across their system. By understanding, listening, seeing, and applying data, our program and platform has been able to grow and flex to their needs.
Lastly, we innovate by seeing collaborators in all the other startups and businesses who are working to “Make us all better.” We always say it is far better to collaborate than compete. So other startups, let go! We are happy to work with those who appreciate growth and success from “doing good while doing well.” Read “well” as growing and being profitable.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Betsy Weaver: Simply, the use of our programs, resources, and tools has grown exponentially among our current clients because they already had the infrastructure to connect with all of their patients at home. They easily pivoted to use our platform to send messages about new policies, procedures, office safety, when to come in or not, when to wait, when to worry, and what to do.
The second piece of the story is that the many prospects who want and need this infrastructure of engagement and connection have not had the bandwidth to consider adding new tools yet. That said, the recognition of the need for digital patient engagement and infrastructure has changed significantly.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Betsy Weaver: Like all small businesses in this pandemic, we have had to make lots of choices, make them fast and hope that they’re the right ones. We quickly applied for and received a PPE grant, and now we’re working through the process of getting that forgiven. It was very helpful. We realized that we had to rethink our expenses and revenues, and now have right-sized those so that we are assured of performing at breakeven or better each month. We did all of this while waiting for our newest DoD contract to come in, which by the way, is the largest one we’ve had since 2006. There have been hard choices in getting us to a point in which we are financially healthy. We have succeeded and will consequently have a very strong finish to 2020.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and UbiCare in the future?
Betsy Weaver: Over the years, we’ve done lots of things to help handle stress and anxiety as a company. This is a particularly unusual time. For the first time, we’ve left our office space and are all working remotely. Before the pandemic, we always had retreats, enjoyed seminar discussions, and volunteered together quarterly in our community. We have always found time to socialize and support one another beyond work. Now, we enjoy weekly virtual happy hours. We still honor people’s time with the company, celebrate holidays like Halloween, and use social media to talk about the big issues at large – our mental health, how we protect our families and ourselves from the constant anxieties, and the effects of this unprecedented pandemic.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Betsy Weaver: In a digital world, competitors for hospitals and us are essentially anyone who says, “We provide digital healthcare, engage your patients and improve outcomes.” We believe it is important to collaborate rather than compete and, thanks to our constant focus on data, we know we can fill gaps for many companies in addition to hospitals and healthcare institutions.
Your final thoughts?
Betsy Weaver: We are, and have been for some time, in a dark tunnel since the start of COVID-19. It has impacted our economy, small businesses, and the lives of all Americans. We are now beginning to get some definition of what our future healthcare landscape is going to look like. And that in and of itself is very, very positive. It gives us the opportunity to organize, grow, and innovate in a direction that will meet the parameters of what healthcare will be in America in the upcoming years. It is now coming clearly into focus.
In these exceptional and unusual times, with a pandemic, as we have never experienced before and rudderless public health response, we all have to appreciate that staying connected is critical to health, economy, businesses, and lives.
At the same time, we need to understand and hang tight to the fact that all we can do digitally doesn’t replace human connection. It is this that makes us human, gives us hope, and inspires new businesses and innovation. Being face-to-face, when we are able and allowed to touch again, figuratively as well as literally, is the wellspring of our American entrepreneurial DNA.