Breaking Boundaries to Serve the New Health Consumer
Episode 528

Anniedi Essien, CEO at Idem Spark

Breaking Boundaries to Serve the New Health Consumer

In this episode, we feature Anniedi Essien, CEO of Idem Spark. Listen to how Anniedi and her team help elevate women’s voices, empower them to make informed choices, and inspire them to lead a healthy and joyful life. She shares her insights on social determinants of health, collaboration with the right players in the wellness ecosystem, efficient ways to access information that will significantly improve lives, and how to recover when you hit rock bottom. Anniedi is definitely inspiring! Tune in and you’ll learn a lot, especially about the retail space and serving consumers.

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Breaking Boundaries to Serve the New Health Consumer

Episode 528

About Anniedi Essien

Anniedi Essien is Idem Spark’s CEO and Founder saving busy professionals from sacrificing their health for their ambition. She loves helping top performers slay their well-being and career goals with powerful insights as a former corporate health and wellness executive.  Ms. Essien was a founding member of PwC’s New Entrants and Innovators in Healthcare practice with Strategy&, where she advised C-level and senior leaders, including Fortune 10 clients. Prior to PwC, Anniedi designed market expansion strategies for Medtronic, executed partner and channel strategies for EmblemHealth, and managed corporate wellness programs for GE Energy. With nearly twenty years of health industry experience, product commercialization expertise, and executive leadership in corporate innovation, Anniedi is passionate about helping organizations and individuals thrive. In 2018, she co-founded Healthtech Women Charlotte, a non-profit dedicated to advancing women’s leadership in healthcare technology and building a diverse innovation ecosystem. Anniedi holds an MBA in Strategy from the NYU Stern School of Business and a BA in Biomedical Ethics from Brown University. In her spare time, she’s an avid karaoke and yoga enthusiast.

 

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Saul Marquez:
Welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket. Saul Marquez here, and today I have the privilege of hosting Anniedi Essien. She is the CEO and founder at Idems Spark and she’s on a mission to revolutionize wellness. She empowers women to take charge of their health by fusing cutting edge leadership development and wellbeing strategies designed to boost consumer engagement. Anniedi is a keynote speaker, sharing insights from her personal health transformation journey and her 20 year health background as a former corporate wellness executive. She’s a trusted adviser to the largest global brands and health industry disruptors, including Fortune 10 clients. Anniedi has pioneered retail, digital and employer solutions to drive consumer led innovation in health care. Her work in social determinants of health has been recognized by the American Association for World Health and the World Health Organization. Anniedi is a Southern belle living in the Queen City who built her career in the concrete jungle. After studying at Brown University and NYU Stern School of Business. She’s a yoga lover and an avid karaoke enthusiast. And I’m really privileged to be spending some time with her today to discuss the topic of wellness in the unique way that she’s approaching it. So Anniedi, such a such a pleasure to to have you here with us.

Anniedi Essien:
Likewise. Thank you so much for having me.

Saul Marquez:
Absolutely. And so we’re going to dive into the incredible work that you’re doing at Idem Spark. But before we do, I love to hear a little bit more about what inspires your journey in health care.

Anniedi Essien:
Fantastic. I’m always excited to hear about other’s paths as well. So, you know, I often say that my career in health care began well before I had my first job. My senior year in college, my mom became very ill and we weren’t sure exactly what was wrong with her, but she made an appointment with her doctor to go get it checked out. She was diagnosed with pneumonia, but she wasn’t getting any better. And by the time they figured out that it was actually lung cancer, it was far too late for any meaningful clinical intervention. She passed away fairly quickly after that.

Saul Marquez:
Gosh, I’m sorry.

Anniedi Essien:
Thank you. That that misdiagnosis cost us my mother’s life. But it’s not only her story. It’s the story of so many health care consumers whose voices go unheard and whose lives are lost as a result. Now, we were fortunate at the time that my sister was in medical school and she knew all the right questions to ask. But I observed so many other patients in my mother’s situation from all different walks of life who didn’t have anybody there to advocate for them. And I saw that they really struggled to navigate the health system. This cuts across socioeconomic lines as well. Take, for example, a person like Serena Williams. At the top of her game, she owns her craft and likely has her pick of the top medical care in the world. Yet even she had to fight to have her voice heard when she faced life threatening health issues after giving birth to her daughter. So watching my mother’s fearless battle with cancer really lit in me a fire and a passion for health care. After losing my mother, I focused on climbing the corporate ladder. I aim to make her proud by fixing the health system that had failed her. Now, that path has led me to have some amazing career experiences in the health care industry, from developing workforce well-being programs for G.E. energy employees globally, to tackling childhood obesity in elementary school children for state level disease prevention, to driving digital health and virtual care models for disease management at some of the largest regional and national payers and providers. It’s been a pretty incredible ride, I would say. But I’d say the most fun that I’ve had has really been my work outside of the health system. It’s been in the retail space. I’ve loved working with industry disruptors to figure out how to fix a broken health care system. And I’m proud to say that my work in building health and wellness solutions has touched millions of lives and that in large part has required us to capture the hearts and the minds of the consumer.

Saul Marquez:
Well, the work that you’ve done and some of the examples that you’ve shared Anniedi are inspiring. You know, we’ve got a lot to learn from the retail industry and health care. And, you know, it’s great to hear that that you’ve got tons of experience there. And tell us a little bit more about how your incorporating this into the work that you’re doing at Idems Spark and how you’re adding value to to the health care ecosystem.

Anniedi Essien:
Absolutely. I would say the value that I drive begins and ends with consumer engagement. First by fueling consumer led innovation. And second, by teaching healthcare organizations how to speak the language of consumer. So I’m all about being the change you wish to see in the world. It’s no secret that women are the chief health officer of the home, controlling over 80 percent of health care purchasing decisions. Yet their voices often go unheard because they’re not reflected at the same levels of leadership within the organizations that are developing products and services to help them meet their health care needs. And so I empower consumers to take charge of their health by putting them in the driver’s seat with wellness as the ultimate destination. The mission of Idems Spark is to elevate women’s voices, empower them to make informed choices, and inspire them to lead healthy and joyful life. You know, I grew my career in the heart of New York City, which is essentially a melting pot and beyond serving Medicaid, Medicare and commercial populations. I served a diverse array of health consumers and it was not uncommon for us to translate our health education materials into multiple languages to improve our reach. But if even if you’re fluent in the language your care is being provided in, we all struggle when it comes to health literacy, right? Think about the fact that we sit today in the midst of a global pandemic where the ability of us as individuals to take care of our health and wellness is directly tied to the overall well-being of our communities and the organizations that we serve. And so this ability to really understand and communicate in a way that resonates with consumers that can actually drive behavioural change is extremely powerful and lifesaving. Think about even the way we language some of the health changes we’re asking consumers to take on in this pandemic, whether it is shelter in place or social distancing. Right. What does that really mean? We think about it in the context of a consumer versus saying the word stay home. Oh. And so think about that in the context of really complex chronic conditions for diabetes management, cardiovascular disease, some of the highest drivers of costs in health care. How do you really translate these into a way in which consumers will actually understand and be able to take charge of their health Right.? It’s really about thinking about how do we connect the dots there from a consumer engagement perspective? And ultimately, I think there’s a big push right now to think about underserved communities Right. if we think about the disparity. You know, I’m really passionate about building a more diverse innovation ecosystem. You might ask, well, why does creating an inclusive space for health innovation matter? Well, now we can see how the pandemic has been highlighting some of the underlying health disparities and systemic issues that have resulted in higher morbidity rates and chronic conditions, as well as higher mortality rate. Or underserved communities, particularly women and people of color. And I think it’s time for us to move beyond the stats to creating powerful solutions. And so it’s really an important time to really be thinking about who has the seat at the table, how do we engage them in a way that makes meaningful behavior change? And then how do we deliver products and services that are more tailored to the changing needs of the consumer? Those are all the challenges that I look to solve through Idem Spark.

Saul Marquez:
And it’s a great focus area and one with incredible promise to if we do it right. You know, the overall health of of communities and individuals could be that much, much more enhanced as you think about the approach that you’re taking, very consumer driven approach. What would you say makes what you do different then and maybe better than what’s available today?

Anniedi Essien:
Sure. So let me begin by sharing a little bit about who we are and what we do. So Idem Spark is the wellness community for ambitious bosses. Now we help high performers slay well-being and career goals so they don’t have to sacrifice health for their ambition. And we teach consumers how to boost wellness and leadership skills so that you can confidently achieve your desired work, life and health goals. We do this through offering exclusive workshops and coaching to re energized career and fueled personal growth. We deliver Playbook’s to optimize a personalized wellness journey and ultimately share in a private online membership community to connect our members to accountability and support. And I would say the biggest differentiator is that it’s a holistic approach. So we’re really integrating career development as well as well-being strategies for success. We fused these strategies to boost consumer gate engagement so that these high performing talented individuals can prioritize their wellness in a way that really move the needle meaningfully in their lives. It’s social. So never has there been a more pressing time in history where the risk of social isolation have been more widely understood. Right. we said in this missive, this pandemic, and we understand how much we are connected and interconnected to each other. The health of my family and my colleagues, my neighbors, is directly tied to and influences my own well-being and how well I feel. And so we connect our members to powerful networks, both for peer to peer accountability and support, but also to plug into guidance from top wellness advisors. And we believe it takes a village to transform a life. It’s integrated. So many folks are shocked to discover just how interconnected our health choices are to the environments in which we live. But think about the fact that schools shutting down actually is impacting many children from low economic backgrounds. Their access to nutrition or to include Right.. And so thinking about this concept of what we call social determinants of health, which is the buzzword that’s been going all around, it really just is a simple way of saying our environment, the places where we spend the majority of our time, are deeply tied and connected to the outcomes. You know, our health outcomes. And so, you know, I’ve had an opportunity to work from a childhood obesity perspective, really looking at, you know, elementary school children and their access to healthier nutrition and physical activity services. But really translating this to say how do we think about health in a holistic way? There are some professors at the Harvard School of Public Health who look at this concept of flourishing Right. and determined that how well we feel is actually tied to other factors beyond the time we spend in our doctor’s office. So things like our ability to have meaningful social relationships Right. our social connection is a big piece of how well we feel our physical and mental and spiritual health. Obviously all key considerations as well, but even things like career satisfaction, financial stability. So when we sit in the midst of this pandemic where the world feels like it’s been turned upside down, right, it’s no surprise that we need to engage players who act in different areas of this overall wellness ecosystem to really move the needle and driving healthy outcomes. So that’s a big piece from a social determinate perspective. And finally, I would say it’s collaborative Right.. A lot of the work that I’ve done has been at the intersection of what we would call unlikely bedfellows. Retail and health care. Hey, you wouldn’t have traditionally thought about retail as the future of health. But think about the fact that we want to bring care to where the customer is, where the consumer sits today, being bringing care closer to home, closer to the spaces where they spend the most of their time, where they live, work and play. So how does this play out in a global pandemic? Well, we are using telemedicine and virtual care models Right. to think about how do we sort of have a first point of entry and open door Right. to the health care system where you’re able to treat initially to see who are the higher risk and higher needs patients? How do we use digital tools to sort of minimize some of the exposure, but also financial risk Right.. And then we also have the impetus for increased self care. Right. And so what is my responsibility as an individual to better manage my care? So the fact that we’re collaborating and bringing in those unique types of partnerships really empowers with the consumer that one stop shop experience to really say I, after leaving my doctor’s office, know exactly what I need to do to take care of my wellness as it relates to whether it be wellness weight loss strategies or boosting my career. So those are just some of the key areas where we’re different and we’re moving the needle as it drives consumer engagement.

Saul Marquez:
Now, it’s fantastic. And, you know, I think about the approach that you have and probably the transformation that that, you know, somebody my experience through working with you and your company. Can you talk about how you’ve been able to to help some of these ambitious bosses?

Anniedi Essien:
Absolutely. I think that, you know, we just sit in a time where the ability to access trusted sources of information online is so powerful in the way in which it can actually improve health outcomes. And for busy professionals, right.. We are constantly on the go. We have a lot of demands on our time. There’s increased responsibility both in the office, at home. And so really thinking about efficient ways to get access to information that will significantly improve our lives is so powerful. So I draw from nearly two decades of proven methods to do exactly that. And over the years, I’ve achieved a number of results and I’ll just be honing in on three key areas. So the first is improve satisfaction rates. This is really looking at retail driven, consumer centric and innovative care delivery models that bring care directly to the communities where consumers live, work and play. And it’s no secret that traditional health care players have historically struggled in the area of patient satisfaction. So this is a huge shift in culture, right.. How do you design a consumer centric organization? Well, it’s all about designing your care delivery around the end consumer and not around a hospital or health facility. So this requires a little bit of shift in mindset, but also thinking about the people, processes and technologies to really define a solution that works for the consumer. So the question is, how do you meet the consumer where they are? And we tackled that through improving satisfaction rates. The second area is around improving clinical outcomes, right.. So I’m going to try new wellness program. I want to make sure it’s going to work for me and in my experience, driving corporate wellness and workforce well-being programs globally. I’ve had to optimize quality of care by leveraging digital health tools to automate care delivery and streamline clinical workflows using evidence based medicine. So working with teams of physicians and nurses. I’ve often enjoyed bringing imagination to work Right. this was the G energy population by leading special projects to drive process improvements. Change initiatives and digital transformation. To standardize care and enhance the patient experience. And I’m proud to say that statistically significant results suggested that these Web based wellness interventions were successful in improving key health indicators for a mobile global workforce. I think this question is top of mind for so many employers and large health organizations out there, which is how do you create a well-being strategy for a virtual and remote employee population, right? And with the increased burden of burnout and other mental health issues going on now that the health industry is really being stretched right at the seams. Thinking about how to proactively address those issues will be critical. And then finally around the area of improved consumer engagement. So I recognize that while so many of the health issues we face are global, the solutions often have to be applied at the local level. And I found strategic partnerships to be extremely effective. And over the course of my career, I’ve implemented a number of public and private partnerships that have boosted referrals to chronic disease management and health promotion initiatives, leading to increased program participation and consumer engagement rates. So this raises the question, how do you reach the right consumers and engage them in your services? And so those are some of the key areas that I’ve been able to hone in on in terms of driving outcomes that have really resonated to create solutions that are more tailored to this ambitious bar.

Saul Marquez:
Love it. Very cool. And so you guys are working across multiple different avenues to help them. What about setbacks? You know, what does the typical setbacks that that you see people run into? And then maybe a setback that you’ve experienced that has made you better in delivering results for your customers?

Anniedi Essien:
Sure. Sure. So I’m actually working with a cohort of members right now. And, you know, some of the biggest setbacks are just life changes. Major life changes that have a significant impact on their ability to focus on their wellness goals, prioritize their health in the mist of others. You know, I think it’s no surprise when you think about women being some of the largest caregivers Right. thinking about the fact that they put others needs before themselves. And so this is a real shift in mindset to say, well, how do I prioritize my own health needs? How do I fill my cup before pouring out to others? Right. It’s it’s a real shift in mindset to say, you know, how do I continue? I am on my path. When I’m faced with stumbling blocks and I would say that I’ve learned a ton from stumbling myself through major life changes and hands down, getting laid off from my corporate executive job was by far the biggest setback I am experienced in my lifetime. Now, after I’d lost my mom, I really threw myself into my work and it was a source of a mission purpose, but also identity. And so the day I learned that my position had been eliminated, I felt completely lost. When you’re a high performer and you define yourself by the work that you do, it can be devastating to lose what ultimately feels like your identity. And so I had to define for myself, who am I? In the absence of a company or a position, and I learned from that experience that I’m worth more than the sum of my job title. But it was definitely a time for a great deal of soul searching. And usually in these moments, one might say, well, at least I have my health. But first, for me, unfortunately, that wasn’t the case because at the height of my career as a corporate executive, my health was at an all time low. My hair had fallen out in clumps. I was experiencing heart palpitations on a daily basis and my on the go lifestyle was brought to a screeching halt due to severe pain. So the worst part of all of this was catching a glimpse of my reflection in the mirror one day and realizing that I had lost the sparkle in my eye. So after the layoff, I basically hit rock bottom. I had to figure out how to put the pieces of my life back together and find my swagger. So I took control of my health and career at the same time. I lost 50 pounds and launched my own business. Up until this point, I’ve always compartmentalize my work life and my personal life. But it quickly became evident that in order to write the next chapter of my career, I would have to draw insights from both my personal health transformation journey and my background as a form of corporate wellness executive, and that’s how he them spark was born. So, you know, change is hard, but sometimes a setback can set you up for a comeback. So I hope my story can inspire and uplift anybody out there who is going through a major life transition. I encourage you to keep moving your vision forward.

Saul Marquez:
Well, you know, that’s definitely inspiring. Congratulations, number one. I think it’s a total transformation. And, you know, if you if you’ve been there and done that, there’s there’s ways that that you can teach people to do it. And that’s exactly what you’re doing, both helping high performing individuals, but also companies that that want to help their employees get there as well. What would you say you’re most excited about today?

Anniedi Essien:
What am I most excited about? You know, I think we are in a time of tremendous change. I would use the word disruption, right. and it can feel unsettling because essentially the ground is shifting beneath us. You may hear the expression, well, you’re having to build the plane and fly it at the same time. Yes. So, you know, I did that because a lot of the work I’ve done is sort of creating things that have never been done before. Right. working at an health innovation at the cutting edge. And so when I think about all of the shifts that are going right now, it makes me reflect back to some of the goals I said earlier this year. And it’s safe to say with the covid-19 pandemic, a lot of those goals and plans have really shifted. You know, it’s essentially the elephant in the room right now. Right. But when I think about, you know, the fact that this pandemic has far reaching health implications, I think it also has implications for the ways in which we look to serve the consumer. So there are some things that Right. I’ve spent years working on virtual care delivery, telemedicine, serving consumers through digital health platforms. I’m excited about consumer adoption. I’m excited about this perfect storm right now that is creating an interest in some of these technology enabled solutions so that we can move the needle forward. Right. So thinking about, you know, whether you used to shop for your groceries in the store and now you’re ordering them online or you used to go to your doctor’s office physically, now you’re starting through a telemedicine visit. I feel like there’s a lot of fuel on the fire here for consumer adoption of new and novel care delivery models that will really move the industry forward. And so I’m incredibly excited about that. You know, I started off the year, you know, talking about goals. I wanted to really serve direct to consumer and really B2C. But a lot of organizations began reaching out to me to say, hey, we’re struggling with these issues around workforce well-being. We’re struggling with how do we create a culture of wellness. We’re struggling to create an inclusive space for health, innovation, Right. and thinking about how do we engage virtual and remote workforce. And so I’ve been incredibly excited with some of the newer conversations that are now coming to the fold where I think I can add value and my organization can help others to be able to move the needle forward in these areas that are so far reaching and complex. I’m also excited about the fact that there is an increased appetite and attention for some of the underlying factors that impact overall wellness, things like mental health Right.. Traditionally in the past, there was a lot of stigma associated with talking about mental health openly. But I have seen a lot of employers and even individual consumers now as we deal with this issue of social isolation, really thinking about, you know, what do we need to do proactively to preserve our mental health and how do we access care when we’re struggling with mental health issues, whether it’s feeling anxious or feeling depressed with all of the changes that are happening all around us. Right. So I’m excited about this increased appetite for really talking openly about some of the enablers that impact our overall well-being. I start off saying this is a wellness community for ambitious bosses, but be on the health issues, I was also trying to tackle this issue of chronic isolation, chronic loneliness, Right.. And so this pandemic is really exacerbating that. It’s accelerating that. And so I see tremendous demand in terms of folks really looking to come together and collaborate around integrated solutions to solve exactly that issue. And so I am excited about that. I think the Chinese word for crisis means opportunity. Right. And so I know a lot of the set backs that I’ve experienced in my life or that have really fueled my path. And so I’m trying to view this pandemic as reason to really shift my focus, to clarify my vision. To really think about ways in which I can add value not just to the illness itself, but some of the implications of the illness, right.. And I think all of us can play our part. So I know that’s kind of a mouthful there, but I really think there’s no shortage of problems that need to be solved. This pandemic has really highlighted a lot of the underlying issues. And I think that to the extent that we can come together and create. Necessity is the mother of invention. I think this is the time for that.

Saul Marquez:
It’s a great message and airy. And as you’re listening to this, you’re thinking, OK, well, how do I serve the consumer better? And am I approaching this the right way? Am I considering all the opportunities? Maybe there’s a blind spot that you all know about where connecting with somebody like Anniedi and working with her company Edam Spark would really help uncover just opportunity that that you’re missing out on. And now’s the time. And to cover, you know, some of the things that that Anniedi mentioned is this is the pandemic has created an opportunity to accelerate innovation and there’s never been a better time. The the website for Anniedi is company of Idemsparklife.com. We’ll leave a link for that in the show notes go to outcomesrocket.health, type in idem spark. And you’ll find it there. Anniedi, we’re here at the end. This has been a really fun conversation with you. I’d love if you could just leave us with a closing thought. And then the best place for the listeners could get in touch.

Anniedi Essien:
Absolutely. Absolutely. Well, I would say my closing thought for today is give the consumer a seat at the table, give the consumer a seat at the table. I think so often, you know, we ask ourselves if we build it, will they come back? If we build it, will they go out regardless of whether we think about this idea? Or do we call them patients? Do we call them consumers? You know, what do we call them, really? But the fact is, if you are an employer, your employees are consumers of health care. OK, if you are a health care provider, your patients are consumers of health care. Right. They’re used to shopping around. They’re used to getting reviews on the services and products that they bring into their homes. They’re used to really having a sense of agency and a sense of choice. But we have to empower them to do so. And I think that the most important piece is to bring them into the conversation. And there are so many methods you can use to do this. When I run innovation workshops, I love to use design thinking methodologies, Right.. And this you know, it talks about employers Right. who’s on the front lines, who’s on the front lines of this pandemic. How are you hearing from them in terms of what the challenges they’re facing aren’t and opportunities to build out creative solution? So this idea of design thinking can engage both your workforce. It can engage the consumer to ensure that your solutions and your offerings are more tailored to the changing needs and preferences of the population. So whether it’s women, communities of color, millennials, Right. thinking about ways to engage folks in the conversation to move the wellness needle forward is going to require all hands on deck. And so I would definitely encourage all who are out there, leaders who are out there to give the consumer a seat at the table. If you’d love to get in touch with me to continue the conversation, I would absolutely welcome that. You can visit my website, which is anniediessien.com. And that will start the conversation. So thank you so much for having me today. I definitely enjoyed having this conversation. You know what? The topic I can just go on and on about. You know, I think that we are breaking boundaries to serve the new health consumer. It’s really an opportunity for us to engage and hear voices that traditionally have not been heard in the process. And so I’m excited to create a platform and a stage for their success.

Saul Marquez:
Well, thank you so much, Anniedi. I appreciate the passion and the swag that you bring into wellness. And I know there’s a lot of bosses out there that are going to benefit from hearing your message today. So really appreciate you spending time with us.

Anniedi Essien:
Thank you for having me.

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In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to engage consumers in wellness and healthcare
  • Prioritizing wellness as a high performing individual
  • How to improve the collaboration between retail and health
  • How to shift mindset when facing challenges

 

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