In the Worx Magazine

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in the worx a Healthworx publication

Are they the next big thing in healthcare? Meet the 1501 Health cohort

Volume 1 | September 2021

Inside this issue:

Industry leaders are free to innovate Industry trends worth watching Incubators & innovation

In our next issue:

The impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare industry 2021 SEPTEMBER | 1

Healthworx operates at the intersection of healthcare and innovation by creating, co-creating and investing in companies that are improving healthcare equity, quality, accessibility and affordability. Healthworx is particularly passionate about intelligent healthcare operations, solutions for underserved populations, consumer healthcare engagement and access to care anywhere. To connect with Healthworx about partnering, media interviews or speaking opportunities, please email


Improving healthcare will require a collective effort of many stakeholders driving change – we appreciate the many contributors to this publication who help us highlight the stories, strategies, challenges and triumphs of making quality healthcare affordable, accessible and equitable for all people.

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in the worx inside 6

4 Welcome from the head of Healthworx Hope, optimism and determination for the future of healthcare


On the cover: 1501 Health

Virtual event kicks off for cohort of the nation’s most promising startups

10 Free to innovate

Personality, process and persistence drive Healthworx director of innovation


To our readers Why designing for healthcare is so hard


A vision of health equity


1501 Cohort & ribbon cutting event

10 Free to innovate 11

Payer-provider partnerships create value

12 Incubators and innovation 13 Market moves

14 Q&A with Healthworx fellow, CEO Zayas

2021 SEPTEMBER | 3

To our readers

Hope. Optimism. Action.


hese words persist in my mind this season. As we close out the summer months and as we continue to wrestle with a pandemic that has changed our world, I am hopeful that we’ll soon turn a corner and start to rebuild after a season of loss. I am also convinced that as we do this, we can reshape our world to place a higher value on equality and empathy; and that we can reimagine healthcare to serve each of us more wholistically and with greater precision, tearing down the walls that deter action and slow progress in an industry on which each of us is dependent. I believe the future of healthcare cannot rely on one person or organization finding a magic formula to life-long health, but rather, our ability to convene passionate, intelligent and diverse people who can collectively drive healthcare to a more accessible, affordable and equitable state. This publication exemplifies that belief – it represents the people and partners who are collectively working towards a healthier tomorrow. Before I leave you to explore these stories and perspectives from across the healthcare ecosystem, I want to share my thoughts with you about where I believe our industry is going next in three critical areas: •

Quality. Outcome-based care will continue to gain momentum. Moving away from fee-for-service is the only way we can meaningfully make healthcare about outcomes over profits. Accessibility. Access means affordability. It means flexibility. It means navigating healthcare in the way that best fits our circumstances as individuals. I believe we can move toward this by both closing the digital divide and recognizing digital is not a singular answer. A better answer is product design that puts people first, meeting them where they are with a perspective on where they can go. Equity. Our ability to improve health equity is the real key to improving the health of all people. Through partnerships, new solutions and thoughtful investments we must remove the social, financial and cultural barriers that prevent people from the opportunity to be healthy. On this we must take immediate action and cannot be voyeurs in this struggle.

You will see (and feel) these themes throughout the magazine, and I hope that you will be inspired to join us in our journey to better our future – starting at the intersection of health and innovation.

Take care, Ricardo R. Johnson Head of Healthworx

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Why designing for healthcare is so hard and what startups can do about it by Emily Durfee Healthworx

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Figuring out who pays Healthcare payment and reimbursement structures are complicated and slow-moving. Because of this, many start-ups look outside of traditional fee-for-service arrangements and go direct to consumers or through employers. However, doing so also limits scale and consumer types. Make sure you have team members or advisors who understand the space and can give you targeted advice on the best model for your solution.

Proving the impact Healthcare companies are looking for partners that have proven impact on their customers or business. This means it’s difficult to close your first pilot, which will give you the necessary data to close your next deal. To combat this, start talking to healthcare companies at the very beginning of your journey, and work with them to figure out your minimum viable metrics to seal a future partnership. This will help you make the most of your opportunities!

Integrating with the system Healthcare providers and payers are often overwhelmed by the technological and operational demands on their time, and they don’t need another thing to do or app to check. Moreover, the data in their current electronic health records (EHRs) and databases is critical to providing high-quality care. Focus on integrating into existing healthcare workflows and technologies whenever possible, and be thoughtful about which workflows can and should change for your product.

Building for regulation Healthcare is highly regulated to keep patients and customers safe. Many startups are months in before realizing they need to build and use HIPAA-compliant technology and document their processes for healthcare information security reviews. Bring on a regulatory expert as soon as you start building your prototype, so you don’t have to duplicate work in the future!

Talking to customers Ultimately, the best way to design for the healthcare system is to talk to your users, including providers, payers and patients. This will help you understand the diversity of their needs and build a product that truly solves a real challenge they are facing. Build relationships with potential users so you can test your product early and often!

Healthworx is here to help startups design for healthcare systems. Sign up for our newsletter here. 2021 2021 SEPTEMBER SEPTEMBER || 5 5

Five healthcare startups selected for first cohort of 1501 Health incubator


ive promising startup companies joined the inaugural 1501 Health cohort in May. Chosen from 120 nation-wide applicants, the startup companies will participate in the incubator created by Healthworx, the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, and LifeBridge Health. The spring launch party kicked off the program with a virtual ribbon cutting and special guest speakers including Baltimore City Mayor Brandon Scott, CareFirst President and CEO Brian Pieninck and Hurdle CEO Kevin Dedner. “This was a celebration of our cohort,” said Emily Durfee, Healthworx Hub Lead and 1501 Health Co-Manager. “We couldn’t be more proud of this inaugural cohort. These thoughtful and resilient entrepreneurs have built companies during a global pandemic that will continue to change healthcare. Their work leverages new technologies and models to bring care to some of the most high-need populations and conditions, and we can’t wait to see what they achieve.” Following the launch party, the cohort set their goals for their year in the program, and connected with advisors chosen to support them as they work towards those goals. “We are excited to start working with these bright, dedicated and innovative teams,” said Pothik Chatterjee, assistant vice president of innovation and operations support at LifeBridge Health. “We believe the unique combination of payer and provider support will benefit these startups as we work together on our shared vision to develop groundbreaking technologies

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and innovative approaches to advance healthcare and improve the health of people in our communities.” Companies participating in the program receive up to $100,000 in investment and have access to unique mentorship and support from payer and provider experts. Additionally, participants will have access to strategic relationships and potential customers, resources to support their business models and sales strategies, and testing and development of their products in simulated medical environments. Applications for the second cohort will open at the end of October. Visit to sign up for email updates and be notified when applications open.

Online now: 1501 Health Virtual Launch Party Keynote Speaker

Kevin Dedner CEO, Hurdle

Sigi Marmorstein Founder / CEO Eyal Zadik Business Development

Live Chair Health

Live Chair Health builds networks of clinical and non-clinical resources and offers a range of services to address minority health disparities. Combining high-touch encouragement from trusted hair professionals and digital tools, Live Chair Health initiates client discussions about chronic health issues that disproportionately affect minority communities. Andrew Suggs Founder

Even Health

Even Health is a mental wellness company and creator of Cabana, the first digital counseling platform offering anonymous group support facilitated by licensed professionals accessible from desktop, smartphone or virtual reality device. David Black Co-Founder / CEO Heather Townsend Co-Founder / COO


BabyLiveAdvice’s mission is to reduce costly complications and close gaps in maternal and infant care by using tech-enabled professional providers in collaboration with health organizations, employers and insurers to provide remote education, monitoring and support to expectant mothers and new parents.

meet the


Pair Team


Neil Batlivala Co-Founder / CEO

Tegan Bukowski Co-Founder / CEO

Cassie Choi Co-Founder / COO

Sky Meltzer Co-Founder / Executive Chairman

Pair Team is the first end-to-end provider enablement solution for Medicaid, providing wraparound technology, care team and EMR-embedded support tools to coordinate patient care and automate value-based care operations.

Wellset is the premier centralized platform connecting the holistic wellness industry. Find and book thousands of individual and group sessions with specialists in 30+ modalities including acupuncture, health coaching, holistic therapy, aurveyda and more.

2021 SEPTEMBER | 7

A vision of health equity bridging gaps, improving outcomes for all Dr. Toyin Ajayi Chief Health Officer Cityblock


he inequity of America’s social infrastructure, including the legacy of systemic racism, is creating disparate health outcomes across our society that are unacceptable. Despite the best efforts of health insurance companies and providers, the system isn’t set up to coordinate clinical care holistically for all people with complex healthcare needs. Nor is it designed to address the deeper needs that lead to poor outcomes. So what’s needed to turn this healthcare crisis around? For starters, we need a system that rewards quality over quantity. A value-based system where providerpatient relationships are meaningful, lasting and focus on keeping people healthy rather than treating them when they’re sick. We need a system where technology decreases costs instead of raising them. To transform the healthcare system into one that’s more accessible, affordable, equitable, and produces

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better health outcomes for all— we need to completely rethink and reimagine the services, technology and payment models that underpin our current health delivery. This is why we started Cityblock Health—a transformative, value-based healthcare provider for Medicaid, dual-eligible and lower-income Medicare beneficiaries. Cityblock was founded with a mission to address all the drivers of health, including social factors and circumstances, because we know that staying healthy requires more than access to medical care. Improving health outcomes and minimizing healthcare inequities requires having access to things like nutritious food and safe housing for yourself and your family. We’re showing up for our communities with radically better care. At Cityblock, we proactively engage individuals in our neighborhoods who face higher risks for poor health outcomes and are committed to meeting them wherever and however, based on their specific needs. This means meet-

ing members in their homes, out in the community, at our Neighborhood Hub, in our mobile clinic, or virtually through phone, video and text messaging. Cityblock’s robust, in-person care team is composed of clinicians and community health partners who meet members face-to-face in the community and provide a virtual team available 24/7.

More capital to invest in under-resourced populations Cityblock announced a $192 million Series C extension after their December funding round that raised $160 million. This boost to capital will allow Cityblock to continue its effort to radically change the experience of healthcare for often underserved or unserved populations. Read the full Forbes feature here.

Our care model augments the existing clinical services in our members’ lives. Importantly, Cityblock does not seek to disrupt patients’ existing relationships with their providers. Instead, Cityblock works to strengthen those relationships through dedicated coordination with members’ primary care providers (PCPs). We bridge gaps in care by providing clinical services in situations where members would otherwise not receive care or face significant delays in care, resulting in poor patient outcomes and unnecessary visits to urgent care, emergency departments and inpatient settings. With a heavy focus on design, harnessing the power of technology enables us to streamline workflow, enhance communication and scale. We’ve developed a custom-built care facilitation platform called Commons to address four major gaps in technology infrastructure for community-based care. Commons enables us to: 1.


3. 4.

Understand a 360° view of member health—not just medical history Build inclusive care planning to reflect a member’s needs and strengths Leverage omnichannel engagement Create more effective communication and coordination among our healthcare providers.

From our city block to yours At Cityblock, we’re proud to be doing this work to transform the landscape of value-based care for underserved populations with complex health needs. And we’re grateful for our partners who are helping to eliminate health disparities and improve outcomes for those who need it most. We recognize the profound impact social factors have on health and will continue to work to reorganize the care system to directly meet the whole needs of the people we serve to transform the health of our communities.

In the Worx podcast

Michael Brown Healthworx

Cityblock Health & CareFirst Community Health Plan DC Listen to Michael, Toyin and George discuss how their partnership is making healthcare more accessible in the Washington DC market.

Toyin Ajayi Cityblock Health

George Aloth Health Plan DC

Here’s what this looks like in practice In October 2020, we connected with an individual who had recently become eligible for Cityblock services. We will call this member “Alicia.” When we first began working with Alicia, she revealed to the team she was struggling with pain. She was admitted multiple times over the next few months, including having a major surgical procedure to address her advanced chronic conditions’ long-term consequences.

Meet “Alicia”

We had a breakthrough in our relationship while Alicia was admitted for her surgery, and we worked closely with the inpatient team to ensure safe discharge planning. When Alicia chose to leave the hospital against the advice of her medical team, we remained closely connected to her. We non-judgmentally intensified our efforts to make sure she had the care she needed. We helped Alicia coordinate outpatient rehabilitation and make follow-up appointments with her primary care provider and surgeon. We ensured she had sufficient food and housing resources. We also began addressing the root causes of her chronic illnesses, in particular her depression, which other providers had so often ignored. Like so many of our members, Alicia is a person with complex social and clinical needs who harbors a deep-rooted mistrust of the medical system. Engaging with Alicia and ensuring that her immediate and long-term needs are met requires the efforts of an interdisciplinary team working closely together, investing up-front in earning her trust and using that relationship to guide the rest of the work we do. By letting members like Alicia steer their own treatment plans, and by focusing on shared decision-making and risk reduction to build engagement, we can safely care for Cityblock members in the community in ways that align with their individual goals and needs.


Free to innovate A

combination of personality, process and persistence drives Healthworx Director of Innovation Arianne Graham.

they won’t live up to those or they might lose their job or their resources, etc.” While all are valid concerns she contends they are not instructional.

Put aside the intensity and drive, and Graham will jokingly share that her six-figure MBA from Harvard Business School taught her two things. First, effective leaders articulate a vision with priorities. Second, and perhaps most importantly, every great leader makes decisions with incomplete information. Leaders can’t always wait for the last piece of data or the perfect time, but have to make a choice, own it and move forward.

As Graham surveys the problems facing the healthcare industry, she wants to instill a sense of confidence into her team of innovators. “Let’s get free,” she said. “Don’t live in fear of that problem, but feel confident, whether it is through a process or a methodology or just the knowledge that somebody else has also been great at tackling a challenge when they didn’t know the answer.”

“You will never have all the information,” she said. “This is still relevant to me every day.”

What Graham doesn’t articulate as she laughs over her student debt is those Harvard case studies affirmed her own understanding of the role fear plays in both life and business.

Let’s get free. Don’t live in fear of that problem.

Growing up as an Army brat and the daughter of two working physicians, she was exposed to new people and situations every two or three years. “I found a great deal of independence early on and when I ran into a challenge I was met with the consistent message of: ‘I believe in you and you can figure this out,’” she said. “And I just learned to try new things and test things out without being afraid of whether or not I would fail.” “I seek to be free from fear in everything I do,” Graham states with certainty. “Making decisions out of fear is generally not a helpful strategy.” She continued: “What I’ve discovered is that a lot of people make decisions out of fear: they have obligations to family members and they’re fearful

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Her framework for tackling heathcare problems is rooted in both her personal and professional experiences. Healthcare is her family business, and education in finance and business make her views pragmatic. As a Black woman she is tuned into the disparities of health outcomes for minority communities, and as an industry insider, she understands the silos of interests that play a part in both problems and solutions. She’s spent her entire career in the healthcare field, leveraged technology to solve problems, examined other industry innovation studios and taken the advice of seasoned consultants. “I’ve chosen from the best of the tried-and-true methodologies for Healthworx,” she said. Graham’s Healthworx project teams use an expansive and reductive human centered design approach as they problem solve some of the industry’s toughest challenges. “Teams will just focus on one problem,” she said. “Not many people, including myself, are focused on just one thing at a time. I firmly believe that if you put a group of people on a

problem and just let them focus, removed all the other distractions, they will find you the best solutions.” “This process and methodology is meant to have a bias for action and decisiveness,” she said. Her teams will examine options and test potential solutions. “Let’s see what we learn and where we’ll fail,” she said. “We’ll fail fast and make further recommendations.” At the end of their year-long journey, each team, based on research and testing, can make recommendations to move forward with potential solutions. Those concepts can be turned over to other di-

visions within Healthworx, including commercialization or venture capital for development, leaving Graham’s innovation team available for the next problem in the queue. While Graham’s teams focus on one problem, she’s always thinking about the big picture and how the lessons of innovation can be brought back to the healthcare workforce. “I seek to demystify, share skills and build internal capacity so every associate in CareFirst can do innovation,” she said. “Part of my job is to bring the lessons from the innovation process to the rest of the business in ways that teach people aspects of lean, agile human-centered design and how they can take a bite-sized approach with those tools to the work they do every single day.” Ultimately, Graham views her systemic approach to innovation as a de-risked roadmap for connection and change. “People should feel empowered and free to do something,” she said. “That’s what I’m here for.” Graham leads innovation at Healthworx, the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst.

Partnerships create value in post-pandemic health industry Pothik Chatterjee

Assistant Vice President Innovation & Operations Support LifeBridge Health


espite a global pandemic, the healthcare industry still faces increasing costs, an aging population and a growing burden of chronic disease. Prior to COVID-19, the industry was shifting from a fee-for-service towards value-based care. The arrival of COVID-19 caused massive disruption for providers and payers, disturbing many of the care management and business assumptions involved in contracting. For providers, the pandemic solidified that developing contracts that reward quality outcomes will benefit them financially in the long run. In a post-pandemic era, payer-provider collaboration through value-based contracting will continue to move forward and be critical in the shifting healthcare landscape. Key to this collaboration being successful is how payers and providers share data to achieve common objectives – reducing costs, improving outcomes and bettering member and patient experiences. Most of the time, providers have more data than payers do. Providers are also looking at integrating information systems in a better and more efficient manner. Payers also recognize sharing more data with providers can lead to better health outcomes. When this happens, predictive analytics and artificial intelligence can be leveraged to generate meaningful insights and a single view of the patient. At LifeBridge Health, we embrace partnerships with forward-thinking payers like CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield where there is alignment around technology and data-sharing as a core principle in a long-term innovation strategy. With partnerships like this, created on a foundation of trust, we can align on goals, governance and process to share data and resources that enable all parties to move towards the best decisions for patients and members. We recognize there is tremendous value created when a large provider and payer partner to foster innovation. But we cannot lose sight of the overall ecosystem in digital health which includes startups bringing new solutions and perspectives into our industry. For this reason, we established 1501 Health in partnership with Healthworx, the innovation and investment arm of CareFirst. This novel incubation and investment program was designed to nurture the development of early-stage healthcare startups. Our first cohort in 2021 represents themes that reflect our common strategic priorities to reduce costs, shift towards value in healthcare and improve member and patient experiences through groundbreaking technologies and innovative approaches to propel our industry into the new decade.

2021 SEPTEMBER | 11

Incubators change impact-driven healthcare innovation Ryan Ross

Chief Innovation Officer Halcyon


ealthcare startups are a driving force of innovation in our economy. Seven years into running the Halcyon Incubator for impact-driven business founders, we’ve seen this first-hand: healthcare ventures were a part of almost every Halcyon cohort, and the rate of impact-driven innovation in this sector is growing. Seeing this trend, we established the first-ever vertical within our program, sponsored by Healthworx, dedicated to accelerating impact-oriented healthcare innovation. As I write, HealthOpX, the current Healthworx fellow, is hard at work using software solutions and community partnerships to help limited English proficiency patients navigate the healthcare system. Halcyon supports their work by offering mentorship, training, legal and consulting resources, housing and workspace, networking opportunities, a cash stipend and other benefits offered as part of our fellowship. With benefits like this, it makes sense that startups would engage with incubators, but why do we see healthcare startups in such large numbers?

Long runway of innovation In other sectors, we’ve seen ventures go from the idea stage to market in a few months, but among healthcare ventures the runway can be much, much longer. With arduous hoops like clinical testing, FDA approval, long product development or R&D timelines, many healthcare ventures (and their founders) need a long-term mentality from the get-go. An incubator can provide an infusion of strategic support on how to build a business designed with longevity in mind. Startups learn how to raise capital with limited revenue, navigate a regulatory process, understand key milestones, and recieve sector-specific strategic guidance on their growth. The bottom line is that incubators excel at taking a longer-term view of a venture, allowing founders to receive advice on how to set themselves up for growth and scale.

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Expanding your expertise It’s true that one of the most obvious benefits of an incubator is getting “stuff,” whether that stuff is money, space or access to someone who can help startups on their journey. But what makes an incubator especially important is the different types of expertise to which they provide access. One person may be a tremendous medical innovator but needs expertise in how to commercialize their product. Or perhaps someone has their MBA and seasoned medical advisors but needs product development experts. The large community of advisors, investors and experts in the incubator community is an invaluable resource. Any founder needs to be functionally competent aat handling almost a dozen of their company’s facets. Having a network that brings in expertise on a few of these areas is invaluable.

Peers support sustainability Sure, the network it takes to successfully grow and scale an impact-driven healthcare venture is full of legal experts and clinical testing wizards, but that’s not the only network startups need to make it. An incubator connects entrepreneurs with other people like them: inspired, motivated, and yeah, occasionally burned out. Those people might be other entrepreneurs at a similar stage or even in the same cohort, but they also might be investors, or even partners like the ones we have at Healthworx, whose interest in your success goes way beyond the nuts and bolts. An incubator family is there to support every hurdle you get over, and even every hurdle that trips you at full speed - we’re the folks with whom you can let down your guard, and an entrepreneur needs that sometimes. Founding a startup is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Surrounding yourselves with people on the same journey allows you to persevere, even in the more difficult portions of the business. Not all incubators are the same, so experiences vary according to different programs. Some take equity in the companies they support, which might be exactly what you want at a given point in time. Some limit cohort size, while others cast a wide net in the hopes of giving you the biggest possible network. The ultimate goal remains similar: to bolster businesses, including those with the power to improve healthcare affordability, convenience and quality, and ensure the entrepreneurs at the helms of those startups have what they need to change the world for the better. Learn more about Halcyon at or on social media @halcyoninspires.

Market Moves Industry trends and activities worth watching

Investors seek growth through acquisition in healthcare Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) are increasing in popularity during the pandemic, but they come with risk. Despite this, these shell companies, designed to acquire other businesses using proceeds from an IPO and Private Placement, are gaining significant traction as investors and startups seek faster and potentially more lucrative paths to public markets. Since the start of 2020, over 450 SPACs have issued, raising over $154 billion in capital. A number of these SPACs have raised capital with the intent to pursue combinations in the healthcare space. Transactions have been announced with prominent healthcare startups including Clover Health, Sharecare, Him & Hers and 23andMe. This trend continues in 2021, and we expect it will be a record year for this risky but creative strategy for telling a growth story.

Strategic acquisitions expand services to at-risk populations Earlier this year, United Healthcare’s CEO said: “Eighty percent of what impacts a person’s health,” happens outside of traditional healthcare settings. Optum, the provider and analytics division of United, is rumored to be in talks to acquire California-based in-home medical care company Landmark. This acquisition would deepen United Healthcare’s ability to serve Medicare

and Medicaid communities. Landmark serves the sickest and frailest populations–currently tens of thousands of patients across 17 states-- and works alongside those members’ existing healthcare providers. United’s continued use of strategic acquisitions puts pressure on other payers to figure out how to compete with a scaling player with ever-expanding capabilities. United’s significant investments of capital increase their chance of potentially expensive mistakes, but it seems to be paying off as their growing portfolio provides a level of protection against the fluctuating healthcare landscape.

Startup goes public, sets new standard for insurance Oscar has gone public after eight years as a tech-enabled health insurer born from the Affordable Care Act. The group which describes itself as a ‘new kind of health insurer,’ built an inhouse, full-stack tech platform that attracts members and capital. “We created Oscar because of our own frustrations with U.S. healthcare,” says the company’s prospectus. “The U.S. healthcare system is the world’s largest and most expensive - estimated to have cost over $4 trillion in 2020 - yet health outcomes are worse than in other advanced economies.” Oscar promotes that 44 percent of its members are monthly active users on its digital platform and 71 percent have accessed their assigned virtual care team. Even more impressive, Oscar shares that 68 percent of their surveyed members report trusting Oscar to advise on how and where to get the care they need.

In an industry where consumers are generally skeptical of their insurer, Oscar has developed a tech-first healthcare model that is clearly favored by the market. We hope other healthcare companies and payers alike will draw inspiration from this startup that seems to have found the magic sauce to meaningfully engage consumers in healthcare.

Connected health services add to corporate portfolios COVID-19 accelerated the healthcare industry towards consumer-friendly healthcare offerings. In September 2020, Cigna launched Evernorth, a distinct brand to house its growing portfolio of health service companies. Evernorth is set to acquire MDLive, a virtual primary care platform that will enable Cigna to offer convenient access to affordable care. This acquisition will add to the existing pharmacy solutions, benefits management, care solutions and data and analytics already in the Evernorth portfolio. Cigna’s deal, set to close in the second half of 2021, is another example of the recurring trend of health plans purchasing connected health service assets that are must-have offerings in the COVID era.

This content was contributed by Dan Zohorsky, Matt Thompson and Mike Brown from Healthworx’s corporate development team.

2021 SEPTEMBER | 13

Healthcare startups are building products and teams AGED Diagnostics is redefining the grim reality of liver cancer, the fastest growing cancer worldwide. The current blood test is just 60 percent accurate, leaving too many patients diagnosed at later stages. The AGED team is working together to create a blood test for liver cancer, using genomic tools to ensure their test would provide early detection, intervention and improved outcomes for patients and their families. Like many startups, the AGED Diagnostics team is building a product that has the potential to make a big impact, but they are also building their team and company. Founders often wear many hats – HR, finance, marketing, product development, sales and more. Programs like Halcyon and Healthworx offer support and insight for founders to learn how to navigate the entrepreneurial journey with more ease.

Q & A with Zayas, Healthworx fellow


e caught up with Rachel Zayas, AGED Founder and CEO, to find out what she’s been up to and learn more about the progress her team made while participating in the Halcyon incubator as a Healthworx fellow. Tell us more about Halcyon. Why were you interested in joining that program? Halcyon equips early-stage ventures with tools to build, scale and grow successful companies. During Cohort 13, we were selected as the Healthworx fellow. This fellowship allowed us valuable access to subject matter experts in the healthcare space that supported our work around payer reimbursement, clinical trial strategies and regulatory hurdles. What did you work on weekto-week or day-to-day while at Halcyon? Each week I would propose a challenge question to the team. We would outline associated assumptions and discuss strategies on how to tackle that challenge. One week’s challenge was to gain general insight into how payers make decisions when considering a new medical device for reimbursement. I would work with the Healthworx team to get questions answered and develop a plan for who else we needed to talk with to validate or invalidate our hypotheses. Through this model, I gained expert insight to drive decisions based on evidence outlined from key decision makers. Who were some of the people you worked with at Halcyon? There was a team of experts – Healthworx offered valuable insight into our journey as a

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startup and connected us with other subject matter experts at CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield. Dr. Yvette Oquendo Berrus, Aaron Feierstein and Tim Cox brought us a depth of knowledge that allows us to understand regulatory hurdles while also bringing the patient journey to the center of our approach. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced building a healthcare startup? The biggest challenge is generating data to prove technical concepts with little to no resources. Attracting capital is a big challenge in the early lifecycle a company. One strategy we used early on was using open-source genomic datasets to initiate our analysis. Doing this allowed us to generate data, publish papers and attract key partners. This created a ripple effect and enabling us to pursue our next set of milestones with credibility and the support of key thought leaders in the field. What is one piece of advice you’d give to other healthcare startups who are in a similar place? There is a lot of advice I could share, but one thing that is incredibly important is the need to conduct market research at the earliest stage of your company. Interview customers, listen intently, invalidate hypotheses, pivot and repeat until you have a validated product market fit. One mistake many tech founders make is building something no one wants – save yourself time, money and energy by talking to key stakeholders early and often! Pictured (left to right) from AGED Diagnostics: Artemio Sison III, director of bioinformatics; Rachel Zayas, chief executive officer; Dr. Marius Nagalo, managing scientific director.