Pivoting In The Medical Device Industry With Jillian Bridgette Cohen, CEO & Co Founder At Virtual Health Partners

Pivoting In the Medical Device Industry With Jillian Bridgette Cohen, CEO & Co Founder at Virtual Health Partners

Last Updated on December 23, 2020

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About Jillian Bridgette Cohen

I worked in the medical device sector for almost 15 years and kept seeing devices or procedures launch for weight loss. It became evident to me that the ability to provide aftercare in a scalable manner was not physically or economically feasible for a bariatric surgery program or weight management program. I recognized an “uberesque” live virtual service option needed to be created to both serve patients and providers better and that is how Virtual Health Partners (VHP) was born.

I think a lot of us have ideas based on needs that we see in the marketplace, but the key is to make sure you can develop a viable product that is saleable and that someone will pay for.

I spent many years in medical device sales and business development with a focus in the weight loss procedure space. One device that I helped to launch was revolutionary as you did not need surgery to be able to suture. It was used to help tighten up the stomach of patients who had regained weight after weight loss surgery. Between watching the downfall of the lap band and seeing the need for this procedure, the void in the marketplace and the need for a turnkey solution became apparent to me. Weight loss procedures require a lot of follow-up. What became apparent to me is that you can give patients a single tool, like a surgical procedure or a “tightening”, but they really need a full toolbox to succeed. This toolbox needed to go beyond what patients experienced in the office and be accessible throughout their day-to-day lives. Patients needed a combination of nutrition, lifestyle modification, and fitness support all in one place, accessible on-the-go, at hours that fit their schedule.

I shared my idea with VHP’s co-founder and successful bariatric surgeon, Dr. Shawn Garber. He saw the need too and Virtual Health Partners was born. What I didn’t realize at the start, was that this tool we had built would receive so much interest from people outside of the traditional weight loss industry, that we pivoted early on to become a multi-condition focused platform, delivering the same live virtual nutrition, lifestyle and fitness services across all verticals, utilizing the backend software to provide a customized and personalized experience for the patient. A few short but busy years later, VHP now has partnerships in eight different verticals including fitness, oncology, fertility, aesthetics, cosmetic surgery, GI, orthopedics, and weight loss.

About Virtual Health Partners

When I first graduated college I went into corporate finance. I was in AT&T’s Financial Leadership Program. I quickly learned that corporate finance was not my passion and by luck ended up in the field of Medical Device Sales. My first medical sales job was with Johnson & Johnson as a Territory Assistant. Within 6 months, I was promoted to manage my own territory and then shortly thereafter, I was invited to join the Management Development Program. I tremendously enjoyed being in surgeries and seeing less-invasive surgical procedures in the OR start to take off. I spent a lot of time observing gastric bypass, open heart, spine, and orthopedic surgeries, along with the treatment of diabetic and pressure wounds. Many of the patients I saw were overweight or obese, and witnessing firsthand the link between obesity and these major health issues strongly influenced my career path and eventually led to the creation of Virtual Health Partners (VHP).

VHP is redefining virtual healthcare offering by providing condition-specific live support for nutrition, lifestyle and fitness support. Offered exclusively through our network of partners including insurers and self-insured companies, hospital systems, and health product companies including fitness clubs, VHP’s Business-to Business-to-Consumer (B2B2C) model provides a SaaS and PaaS solution that fully customizable and scalable. Through the privacy compliant, HIPAA compliant platform, VHP provides its partners with a turnkey solution for clients in the areas of weight loss and weight loss procedures, metabolic syndrome, oncology, women’s health, digestive diseases, cardiac rehab, preventive medicine, plastic surgery and general wellness.

The company is now on the forefront of virtual care and uniquely positioned to address the rising demand and challenges that Americans and people across the globe face during and post the coronavirus pandemic, as social distancing is not just going to go away quickly.

How Did You Get Your First Several Customers Or Users? How Many Users Or Customers Do You Have Now?

Since starting VHP I have learned that you cannot be scared to pivot and it is imperative to be nimble based on the needs of your customer. VHP’s team and business model succeeded in doing both which has led to close to 50 new partnerships and launches within a 10 week period.

How Does Your Company Grow And Acquire New Customers?

We have currently supported over 300,000 users and growing. Now more than ever during COVID-19 the ability to support all age groups in helping them deal with managing stress, healthy eating with limited food sources and ways to stay fit at home is a whole new level of accomplishment. We have been passionate about supporting the Medicare population since our inception, making sure the interface was easy to use for all ages. We have developed specific programming to help combat nutrition and loneliness issues, along with being able to bring a sense of community virtually to those alone. Being able to support this population, along with cancer patients, Crohn’s disease sufferers, metabolic syndrome disease, cardiac rehab and many more areas critical to one’s health through this worldwide pandemic, feels like our biggest accomplishment yet; however, I am sure there are many more to come.

What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Founders Who Are Looking To Get Their First Thousand Users Or Dollars?

I believe the ultimate key to success is having a great team. Surround yourself with people who you can trust, who motivate you, challenge you, lift you up and who you genuinely enjoy being around — both personally and professionally. I am thankful that I have an awesome business coach, the programming of our platform, and others that I lean on to be able to be a good leader, business person, fundraiser and colleague, while staying true to our mission and our brand.

My top 3 tips for any founder starting to build their brand:

1. Always jump in. You may not always like what you have to do but do not put it off for tomorrow, because it will still be there tomorrow.

2.Constant improvement. The platform, managing people and the business can all always be improved. Feedback is like a gift from your grandmother. You do not always like it, but take it, store it and use it.

3.Stress management. Sleep is important. If you are that worried or stressed that you are not sleeping, you need to find a way to to manage the stress. I used to read my emails even when trying to fall asleep. I now make my to do list before I head to get ready for bed and from that point forward, I do not read work email until I wake up. I also read something that is totally fun, non-political or stressful.

What Is Something You’ve Learned That Would Not Be Obvious To Somebody Who Hasn’t Worked In Your Space Before?

Like any entrepreneur each milestone feels like a victory but not THE VICTORY. Something can always be bigger, better, more efficient, more user friendly or improved.

When we first started VHP, getting our MVP platform up and working was our first goal. We used to hold our breath for every video appointment and pray that users would use the right browser. Safari does not work due to lack of compatibility with webrtc; hence why you need an app for anything (even Facetime) on an IOS device. We quickly realized that a virtual platform is meant to be used “on the go” so we needed an app to make this possible. Note to self – do not launch a platform without an app!

We got our app out and we had many successful video and voip appointments and virtual classes take place – we could take a breath and not worry during each appointment.

Our next stage took us to adding more users and obtaining strong clinical outcomes, user compliance and overall engagement with the platform. We succeeded in all areas. Our first white paper demonstrated strong achievements in all areas.

We then pushed the gas pedal and started launching with major health systems, white labeling the VHP platform in the brand, look and feel of the partner and rapidly growing the user base, while continuously improving the UI/UX. Each one of the aforementioned items is a huge accomplishment in itself. As a small young company, passing HIPAA compliance audits, obtaining approval from compliance departments in major health systems and fortune 500 companies each was a major win along this journey. We learned many lessons, improved processes and continued to grow the company.

Each user that we have added, even after we hit over 100,000 users feels like a win as we are helping to improve someone’s overall health and wellbeing. Now more than ever during COVID-19 the ability to support all age groups in helping them deal with managing stress, healthy eating with limited food sources and ways to stay fit at home is a whole new level of accomplishment. We have been passionate about supporting the Medicare population since our inception, making sure the interface was easy to use for all ages. We have developed specific programming to help combat nutrition and loneliness issues, along with being able to bring a sense of community virtually to those alone. Being able to support this population, along with cancer patients, Crohn’s disease sufferers, metabolic syndrome disease, cardiac rehab and many more areas critical to one’s health thru this worldwide pandemic, feels like our biggest accomplishment yet; however, I am sure there are many more to come.

What’s The Craziest Thing That’s Happened To You (Good Or Bad) On Your Founder Journey?

One of the biggest challenges with launching VHP was getting our mobile app up and running just a few months after we began working on the web platform. When we did the soft launch of the web platform, it quickly became apparent that people liked the concept but wanted it truly at their fingertips with an app. Getting our app launched so quickly was a tremendous feat with our small early-stage start-up team, but it was worth it. It helped VHP really take off, and we now see over 80% of our usage via the app.

What Are Your Favorite Books?

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

Anything You’d Like To Plug?

www.virtualhealthpartners.com

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