Episode: 210

Assessing the Impacts of Social Determinants on Population Health with Rob Fields, SVP, Chief

How Wildflower Health is Helping Women Make Better Healthcare Decisions With Their Cellphone with Leah Sparks, CEO & Founder at Wildflower Health
EP. 132
15 min 7 sec

How Wildflower Health is Helping Women Make Better Healthcare Decisions With Their Cellphone with Leah Sparks, CEO & Founder at Wildflower Health

Episode 132

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How Wildflower Health is Helping Women Make Better Healthcare Decisions With Their Cell Phone with Leah Sparks, CEO & Founder at Wildflower Health

: [00:00:01] Welcome to the outcomes rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes and business success with today’s most successful and inspiring health care leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez

Saul Marquez: [00:00:18] Welcome back once again to the outcomes rocket podcast where we chat with today’s most successful and inspiring health care leaders. I really want to thank you for tuning in again and I welcome you to go to outcomesrocket.health/reviews where you could give us a rating and review on what you thought about today’s episode because she is an outstanding contributor to Health Care. Her name is Leah Sparks. She is the CEO and founder at Wild Flower health. She’s done quite some marvelous work in the healthcare space across different businesses that has fast forwarded into her own footprint in the health care with wildflower health. They’re really focused on making sure that they’re experienced team of designers as well as executives give the patients the best at the forefront of their healthcare experience and so specifically they’re focused on helping women help make healthcare better decisions throughout their experience so what I want to do is welcome her to the podcasts and have her fill in any of the gaps that I may have missed in that intro. Leah welcome.

Leah Sparks: [00:01:25] Yeah I know great to be here. Thank you. Yeah that’s a great intro as you mentioned. We deliver mobile health software to large health care companies including health plans and employers and hospitals and even outpatient clinics and really focus on women as the chief health officer of the home to help them better navigate the healthcare system across a lifetime of care.

Saul Marquez: [00:01:44] And I think you really hit the nail on the head. You know I don’t know why it happens this way. Maybe you can provide some insight. But even at home you know us I mean my wife definitely seems to take the reigns on the health care of our family. Why. Why is that. I mean have you guys uncovered any of what’s going on with that.

Leah Sparks: [00:02:02] I say we we’ve uncovered the underlying reasons that’s the case. I mean I think there’s something to be said for the fact that for many families health care and and care for health of the family often starts with the birth of a first child and obviously you know women experience pregnancy and there’s some extension of that that comes from that event. But I have to say there’s a few others sort absurd reasons why women are often the decision making a lot of health care decisions. One of the really gratifying things about our technology these we really aspire to do is while there might be one person who’s leading the charge in the family your decisions is ultimately people who are successful in health care and they have a support group and people who are supporting them. So we allow family members to share information on applications that you’re pregnant with your husband your partner your mom whomever is really supporting you. Same thing you’re taking your kids or an aging parent this year and especially to be able to share and coordinate across family members is part of what makes that sort of health care decision maker successful whether it’s female or male. So that’s certainly part of our philosophy.

Saul Marquez: [00:03:08] That’s a really good point and I’m glad you sort of took that a different way because it is not always the female right it definitely depends and it’s good to know that you guys can help. No matter who is running the health care decisions and so what got you in the health care to begin with.

Leah Sparks: [00:03:23] I kind of fell into that after business school after graduating getting my MBA. I just knew I wanted to work in an industry that was meaningful to people’s lives and health care was one of those. And I got an opportunity to work at the Cass incorporation of her business school in San Francisco and really work in the corporate development group. And I realized that within a couple checks in the boxes it would definitely be an industry that was meaningful and if I was going to do healthcare McKesson certainly at the time. Had some technology works and services were really touched every stakeholder in healthcare pharma hospitals health plans and it was a really great way to shortcut might be an industry in sight now.

Saul Marquez: [00:04:01] That’s awesome. And so you obviously have enjoyed it because you’ve stuck with it.

Leah Sparks: [00:04:05] Yeah. No absolutely. I think what you do realize the impact that healthcare makes on people’s lives and I think importantly for me and I need to shift from business person to enjoy do a deal in data development healthcare to founder and CEO was really that trigger point for me personally when I did go from being a person in health care to a patient and that came with my head and I went down the path of starting a family and you really saw firsthand what it’s like to deal with the health care system directly and the pain points that you encounter. And that’s really what inspired me to set out to build a company that wildflower hill.

Saul Marquez: [00:04:39] That’s so awesome. So congratulations to you for taking that on a lot of folks. We’ll sit passively or complain. But you decided to tackle it head first so I want to congratulate you for that.

Leah Sparks: [00:04:50] Yeah yeah I guess so.

Saul Marquez: [00:04:54] Obviously you talked about pain points. What would you say some of the hot topics could be endpoints could be opportunities that healthcare leaders need to be focused on today. And how is Wildflower health tackling those.

Leah Sparks: [00:05:08] Yeah there’s a couple things that come to mind. One I think there have been a lot and very necessary investments in sort of the underlying infrastructure needed for health I.T. so the ability to make medical records more prevalent accessible some work on online scheduling appointments more access to your claims deductibles that exist with the health plans. I think all of those are great. It’s a great platform that he can’t mistake those really robust transactional capabilities for consumer engagement in making one appointment or seeing what medical record is not engaging as a human is not connecting me emotionally. And I think for us are really within the last mile into patient loyalty really influencing people’s behaviors and helping them take action. We have to connect him as a consumer and wildflower hell. Our aspiration is really to bring together the world’s have consumer friendly mobile applications that help me and pragmatic kids parents Chapman family. When I haven’t actually connect seamlessly easily into the health I.T. infrastructure and whether it’s an EMR or online scheduling you to interface with our clients that’s really our goal is deserving that consumer layer on top of this key assets and then the other thing that we’re thinking about a lot that I would encourage certainly helped leaders think about is part of what has happened and put in place places health I.T. infrastructure. Unfortunately we ran for some of the national silos in healthcare. So today I may have to go to one Web site from my hospital here for my health plan from a lawyer. And even the White House Health has we built out our proliferation of mobile apps we realize that you might be standing up for mobile apps for all these different cities. It’s getting really frustrating for the consumer. So one of the things that we’ve been doing increasingly with our network of clients is again bringing together those lions into one views as a consumer I can say I work here. This is my health plan and delivering that baby in this hospital and access all these resources are more which is pretty powerful.

Saul Marquez: [00:07:06] That is powerful and as we think of the typical way that things happen you typically have the EMR or the hospital or the payer kind of pushing data out how about the other way around. The patient entered data and the potential that this could have for improved outcomes. Any ideas around that and how wildflower potentially may be building toward something like that.

Leah Sparks: [00:07:30] Yeah I mean the truth is there’s tons of data in the medical records and the claims data but there’s a lot of data you don’t get how anxious I feeling today. Am I worried about money. I hate my boss all of these things that actually do influence or how can I get enough sleep last night. Right. Yes. So what we see in the very beginning even when we have less robust data Lecci capabilities than we have today is that for whatever reason and you talk to someone as a consumer we have always been very beginning this company’s history. Five years ago picked up a lot of social determining kids for health secularly behavioral health issues like anxiety or feeling sad or stressed out have always been the case up which again you you’re not going to get that record otherwise. So we have figured out how distant some of those data lines back to the health care system help them see action. That is certainly something we’re always aspiring to do better.

Saul Marquez: [00:08:20] Yeah I think there’s some big opportunities there for sure. And it’s exciting here that you guys are already thinking about it and trying to figure out ways to optimize that data.

Leah Sparks: [00:08:30] Yeah absolutely.

Saul Marquez: [00:08:31] So Leah what would you say an example of how you and your team at Wildflower have improved outcomes.

Leah Sparks: [00:08:39] We knew with our initial focus in pregnancy the first area that we set out to improve a real impact in outcomes was in pregnancy and particularly under Sir copulations and Medicaid populations. And believe it or not one of our very first clients was the state of Wyoming Medicaid actually live a very innovative medical center the state. Who knew from the beginning that Medicaid moms do use them. And this was four years ago I was working with them. Now they use smart phones. They rely on them more than other types of technology. They may not have a laptop they may not have Wi-Fi. They apparently have a smart phone and asked me why they access the Internet. And we’ve been able to show by engaging medicaid mothers and helping them that are connected their resources in their community whether that’s a nurse available or Medicaid. Certain types of social programs available are community by driving those actions. It does improve grades and lower Nicaea admissions and in fact we published a peer reviewed journal articles and even telemedicine in the last year in conjunction with our client and did a peer reviewed study showing that women who use our program had about 75 percent lower rates deliberately babies and improved fetus measurement and all of those things that really lead into outcomes. But it wasn’t just the technology alone. It was really harnessing that technology to have day to day contact with those users or users have really come up in times of mind. And so we’re they are and they are convenient when an issue comes up we can connect them to that vehicle restart their candidate a different outcome of their pregnancy. So I think that’s one very discreet example of how that many people are going to wonder if he’s.

Saul Marquez: [00:10:09] Such a wonderful story and as the platform also used to educate.

Leah Sparks: [00:10:12] Oh absolutely. We have a hundred page and education articles in our pregnancy and probably so 500 in our only help application which goes so awesome. Yeah. And again I think the key is not to just have and. But to really have any. Education be actionable. If I am reading an article about the group identity and I click to connect to my local communities looking program for pregnant women or if I’m reading about a certain condition or developmental issues that may be happening with a child can I send that message and I’d be Egyptian. So having those really sweet actions is next is my provider or something. Werman Yeah not that.

Saul Marquez: [00:10:54] I totally agree. In this example that you provided Leah is just so on point. With both improving outcomes and also reducing costs because boy NICU is not cheap.

Leah Sparks: [00:11:06] No. Now we have another client that is done a claims analysis showing that they are either an average or about thirty seven thousand dollars less costly per user because of these reductions in data. So yeah it’s a very very expensive event when you have an early generation or some other complication in pregnancy.

Saul Marquez: [00:11:24] Yeah wow that’s so so insightful and you got to talk about it also. I mean the effect that it has on these parents. You know I mean the physical the emotional the stress all the things that go into having your child in the NICU. I mean this is pretty huge because it also affects their health and the domino effect right.

Leah Sparks: [00:11:44] Exactly exactly and that was one of the reasons that we thought about extending our application into pediatrics. We wanted to have the ability not only for let’s say I have a newborn and I can add newborn babies and you and I can say that and I can also. Tell and say I am 25 years old and I can get content articulately. How are you feeling stressed out here. You need to be doing here. Well invest it so there’s actually data that shows that women are in serious health officer to all their health and can last. They may not be doing the things they need to do for their own health because they’re so busy doing everything else. And so we don’t want to forget that as rotating about a lifetime of care support.

Saul Marquez: [00:12:23] Yeah. Wow. And so it listeners just the one example that Leah provided here just has so many second order consequences that oftentimes go unexamined and when you take a deeper dive into that first thing that you’re affecting it’s oftentimes much more than that. Like Lee and her team have done with this particular example so I really love the example. Leah thank you so much for sharing that. So give us an example of a setback or a mistake that has happened and the pearls that you got out of it to make outcomes better.

Leah Sparks: [00:12:55] Yeah I think one of the things that we learned early on is how challenging it can be to get people to adopt digital health technologies and that this is something that is But not enough and just you know can you give a specific story. We were really fortunate in our first couple clients we had really good and honest person and time we did a lot in the community to drive enrollment that created option by pregnant women. Our second client was a commercial health plan and some of them for years through the employers animation program decorated for some players and then our current client was another health plan. And we did a lot to market to educate their members about that application. But it was just crickets. I mean we’ve had law on loan rates and it was just this huge fall and then we had to take a step back and see what was different about this versus the other Tuten for the services accessible and the real Almelo we had was he will adopt digital health. It’s presented in a moment trust for a moment of need. So I’ll give you an example. Now I just took a pregnancy test and I am I want to go right away and find out which hospitals are covered by health plan. You know how much is it going to cost that is daily if I’m going and searching for my health plan. And they say to me hey there’s this application. It’s really it’s you name it. That’s an or seeking affirmation of my health plan because I want to engage with you in a trance. My employer tells me that’s not true. My appointment. On this contrast is that I have a process as a health plan where women who have seen the claims analysis are pregnant and or some kind of letter that is listed to get them to download an application. It’s not going to work. And so the way you approach the use or reasoning about what is there or the NSA here is what I mean is that your training is so important in getting that right is just so critical. Drive the adoption digital health and I think it has a lot to articulate his interest in science.

Saul Marquez: [00:14:52] That’s a really great distinction. Leon thanks for sharing that. And so the clients that have come after that have you applied learnings and gotten different results.

Leah Sparks: [00:15:01] Oh yeah absolutely. And it’s definitely something that we’re always experimenting with in fact not a member of our team who is retitle is user growth marketing and she is solely focused on working across our plans to get that user adoption is optimized as possible. And one of the things that we’ve really found is that those with health plans and providers and employers that we start to look at geographies and not just think you know the traditional health plan out of the strategic vision but also thinking about that community and who are We’re the mothers groups are there candidates Cruz what are the other places people are going. You know the population centers and Head Start programs so really think about it everything is local and health care you get the word out about our application and resources and the partners who are providing those actionable things you can do in health care sponsorship of a program.

Saul Marquez: [00:15:52] That is so fascinating. Just kind of entering their stream of consciousness rather than smacking them with the get this done.

Leah Sparks: [00:16:00] Exactly exactly yeah.

Saul Marquez: [00:16:03] Wow such a great distinction. So obviously a huge purl that you learn from and a lot of entrepreneurs and even large companies coming out with new solutions they could get that initial success. And then again and then all of a sudden they’re met with resistance or not the same results or the opposite could happen. They go into it and they don’t see anything. So the importance of continuing to tweak your offering and understand why why it is you’re getting the results are not getting the results that you’re looking for. And Leah what you and your team have done is just shown this resilience that is so necessary to be successful in healthcare as a company. So congratulations to you and your team for being able to have that resilience.

Leah Sparks: [00:16:45] Yeah I think it’s definitely something you should sign up for if you’re going to you’re going to start to.

Saul Marquez: [00:16:52] Sign up for it and speak with it.

Leah Sparks: [00:16:55] Yeah and if it’s not working. Try something else obviously Yeah we’ve never really put it in. We’ve always sort of have a vision and just working against it but we have done a lot of iterations with different elements of our model to date you’re not what successful and it’s constant learning to that is also your target users are always changing. I mean that the mobile application and mobile technology trends five years ago when we started in version that generation of was even just five years ago is different than today. And so you’d have to really be always willing to iterate because the rules are changing fast because of technology.

Saul Marquez: [00:17:28] Nah totally agree with you on that one sir. You’ve had a lot of success. You know 70 plus population health management companies to know getting St Vincent’s to sign on near Mobile App. You’re doing a lot of really great things. Out of all the amazing things that you and your team are doing. What would you say one of the most amazing things that you feel you guys have accomplished today.

Leah Sparks: [00:17:50] Well for me when I think about amazing it just all comes back down to the user and again particularly in our populations that really help. One of the things I was really proud of with one of our early Medicaid clients is the first year and tripled the rate of the Hybris pregnant women that were able to access the services. And that’s the kind of thing that need changes. And again it’s just the technology making that connections and that’s the type of thing you think about all the health care access issues we have in this country you know it is particularly if you are stressed out you’re on Medicaid and just like certainly maybe the percentage of the health care system we can help you with that sense and getting the right programs and services that just more meaningful than the revenue associated with things that were really making an impact on people’s lives.

Saul Marquez: [00:18:37] Now for sure that’s definitely really awesome. And it’s stressful enough you know and when you don’t have the finances or the resources forget about it you know.

Leah Sparks: [00:18:46] Absolutely. Absolutely. It’s been one of the surprises of this company that we’ve been able to build so much business in the Medicaid market. It wasn’t necessarily my business plan. We started it five years ago. I just expected I’d never worked in that market. But there was a very very smart adviser who told me early on when we start the company that it was going to be a huge opportunity and she was absolutely right that it was a huge need in Medicaid and that uses a very sabby in Medicaid and that you did a huge impact. So it’s it’s really time.

Saul Marquez: [00:19:12] Yeah Leah. And you know you shared something else to just kind of embedded in your message there. But you know listeners you got to surround yourself with advisers that you can trust that also are very knowledgeable in the things that you’re doing. Health care is so big we recently had a guest to Gavin Teo. He’s a venture capitalist and healthcare and he said it really well he said health care is not a vertical it’s an economy. It’s SoBig. And so there’s no way you could know every part of healthcare. You just can’t. And so that’s something really smart. Surround yourself with people that were specialists in the areas that she wasn’t. And she got some great advice that help her. Not only grow her company but add value in a big way and so what are you missing and how are you filling those gaps with people. What would you say a project that you’re super excited about right now that you guys are working on.

Leah Sparks: [00:20:05] Well right now we are making the extension from pregnancy into additional phases of family hell. And so we just relaunched the wildflower family application that enables us to track your pregnancy as well as your pregnancy under your pregnant but also then your 2 year old and maybe your 80 and all that went out with application and isn’t really a holistic view on your families. And then after you have that baby and her newborn to the application and again all the way you say live in one of the community services say Silicon Valley be accessing your doctor’s office and hospital resources alongside your employer and your health plan and really getting a holistic view of all the health care entities you deal with also cost your family members. And as we look to extend this year how do we help that and other things that will come up whether it’s actual caregiving and in a more robust way our application or other episodic events so that we can really be that trusted resource for that consumer. She’s navigating what comes next. She has her babies.

Saul Marquez: [00:21:09] Wow that is just so powerful you know I had my wife’s friend come over to the house for the weekend this weekend. And you know she was just telling us about how hard it was taking care of her mom who just she has gone through dialysis and and just the strains that she’s going through now because one of the veins was occluded. They’re going to have to potentially go through the groin which is not a good thing. And the stress that she was going through Leah it was just like I mean it’s just it’s sad yeah. You know so the support that you guys are able to provide for a family especially one that is more in need is just amazing.

Leah Sparks: [00:21:49] Yeah and it isn’t early. It’s really for us. And I definitely think there’s a lot of white space for caregiving space. And hopefully there’ll be a lot of great start ups or even established health care companies doing more for caregivers because you’re exactly right. And people who were in that situation is a social determinant for health problems to be a caregiver. Right. Your health is going to begin to suffer. And it can be very isolated. I think that there is a lot of opportunity for work in that particular space and certainly we hope to be connected to those resources. And he has a support network in Canada I think has a lot of opportunity there.

Saul Marquez: [00:22:22] Leah the community of listeners. And everybody at the outcomes Rockett wishes you success in this new endeavor and it’s a really worthwhile one. So we wish you the best and we’re behind you.

Leah Sparks: [00:22:34] Thank you so much. We really appreciate that.

Saul Marquez: [00:22:36] Absolutely. So let’s pretend you and I are building a medical leadership course on what it takes to be successful in medicine today. It’s the 101 or the ABCs of Leah sparks. So I got four questions for you. Lightning round style and then we’re going to finish up with a book and a podcast that you recommend to the listeners. You ready.

Leah Sparks: [00:22:56] Yeah as ready as I’m going to be.

Saul Marquez: [00:22:58] All right. I love it. What is the best way to improve health care outcomes.

Leah Sparks: [00:23:02] The best way to improve outcomes is to follow your passion. Do something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you’re not going to have the ability to have the creativity and the same energy to really be able to impact it.

Saul Marquez: [00:23:15] Love it. What was the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid.

Leah Sparks: [00:23:19] NEver falling the trap of thinking because you’re a health care expert that you know what you’re doing. Always question your assumptions and be really humble about that. It’s really easy to have hubris in this market and you know everything properly.

Saul Marquez: [00:23:30] How do you stay relevant as an organization. Despite constant change that.

Leah Sparks: [00:23:35] Keep hiring really smart people. And often people who bring in different skills that are to win via. I don’t even though I believe healthcare expertise is important and I don’t think you should hire people who come here because I think there’s a lot to be learned from the hospitality industry from consumer tech and some of those industries are really far ahead of us. Think about consumers.

Saul Marquez: [00:23:54] What is one area of focus that should drive everything in your organization.

Leah Sparks: [00:23:59] Focus on empathy for our users and compassion for users and if we do right by them and make them healthier we will be successful and serve our clients better.

Saul Marquez: [00:24:08] Leah what book and what podcast would you recommend to the listeners.

Leah Sparks: [00:24:12] Well obviously the podcasts I recommend is outcomes rocket

Saul Marquez: [00:24:15] Thank you.

: [00:24:19] I don’t actually listen to podcast. I have listened to the startup podcast that media puts out and a range of industry and has a startup founder. I find somewhat therapeutic tools to other people. I’m going to start that process from a book perspective. So when I was first starting wildflower I read through Renee Brown’s book daring greatly and it is kind of a bit of a self-help book but one of the things that was really particularly really readers out there are thinking about becoming founders of leadership positions and certainly early stage aerospace companies you know when you go out there and you talk to customers or investors whomever you really put yourself out there and it is a major feeling of vulnerability and Brown’s book Daring Greatly is based on this famous you know Roosevelt quote that I’m not bitter that it is basically it is OK to put yourself out there and you are better off doing it yourself putting yourself out there dealing greatly and sitting on the sidelines. So it’s all about getting comfortable.

Saul Marquez: [00:25:16] What a beautiful recommendation and one that I’ll add to the list and listeners. If you’re driving or on a jog right now don’t worry about writing it down. Just come back and go to outcomesrocket.health/sparks. That’s Leah’s last name. It’s S P A R K S and get some sparkle of ideas for what you’re doing and dare greatly to improve outcomes because that’s what we’re here for. So this has been a lot of fun. Before we conclude I would love if you could just share a closing thought the listeners and then the best place where they could get in touch with you.

Leah Sparks: [00:25:50] You know I guess my closing thought would be not good too personal but I have two kids along the way. I built this company and I just want to encourage people who are put off by starting a company into something riskier than your career. To think that you have to choose your personal life of the professional. I really feel like I kind of have it all and I don’t feel like I don’t see my kids I’m like I’m a wife and mother. And I love my work. And I am consumed by it certainly and to a point that it is possible to have that balance in your life. And I think it’s something that is to help can’t really important the art of being an overall person. And it really touched me. Probably email is the best. My email is leah.sparks@wildflowerhealth.com.

: [00:26:33] Love it. Powerful message. Leah and listeners all of these things that include Leah’s email a link to her company a link to the book says she recommended in the podcast we’re going to have all those at the link that I told you about outcomesrocket.health/sparks so go there. You want to get in touch with her. She’s obviously given you her e-mail address so if you find a way to collaborate please connect. That’s why we do what we do here so I just want to take a moment again to say thank you on behalf of the entire listener community and really looking forward to staying abreast of the updates that you and your company do with your achievements.

Leah Sparks: [00:27:12] You bet. Thanks for having me.

: [00:27:17] Thanks for listening to the Outcomes Rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.health for the show notes, resources, inspiration and so much more.

Recommended Book/s:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

The Best Way To Contact Leah:

leah.sparks@wildflowerhealth.com 

Mentioned Link/s:

https://www.wildflowerhealth.com/

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