Your Wellness Plan is Broken, Not Your People, with Welltok’s April Gill

As a society, we tend to blame those who are unhealthy – for lack of motivation, willpower, or education. It’s their fault for being sick or obese. But according to Welltok‘s April Gill, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Transcript

April Gill: My kids have this saying, “You don’t know my life.” And so, when I feel people judging me or, you know, making disparaging comments or whatever, when I’m trying to deal with this stuff, that’s absolutely my response; “You don’t know my life.” You have no idea what I might be going through today or what I’ve been going through for the last month or a year or a number of years. And so, keep it to yourself. You know, we’re all works in progress.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Okay, welcome to the Quacks and Hypochondriacs Podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Bill Ferro. I started my career as a chiropractor in health clubs; turned into a gut health expert. So, if you want to call me a “quack,” you probably wouldn’t be the first. On this podcast, we’re going to give you the inside scoop on the so-called quacks of the world, “quackery claims,” who you should and shouldn’t listen to, and why sometimes hypochondriacs have every right to be paranoid about their health.

With me today is not my typical co-host, Erin O’Hearn, which is very good for me because you know I can’t stand her, ultimately. We have Caitlin Brauner. How are you doing, Caitlin?

Caitlin Brauner: I’m good, doc.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Yeah. So Caitlin’s background is she likes anything that rhymes with “Oga,” ” Shmilates,” or “Ucha.” And I’ll let you figure in what that is about. Caitlin, I understand you’re somewhat of a, a budding chef.

Caitlin Brauner: I am. One of my biggest hobbies is being an amateur at-home chef. I take pictures of all of my food, I, I Instagram it, I share my recipes and yeah, love to cook.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Does your food do skinny arm in the pictures?

Caitlin Brauner: No. I can’t say that I do that. There’s, there’s no humans in the photos. It’s, it’s the food speaking for itself only.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Got it. Okay. Well, I’m super excited today. We have a guest named April Gill. She is the Chief Strategy Officer for Welltok, which is a healthcare consumer activation platform. And we’re going to be talking about why people aren’t broken, but the wellness plans that serve them potentially are. Hi, April.

April Gill: Hi, Dr. Ferro. How are you?

Dr. Bill Ferro: My pleasure to have you here. I’m doing phenomenal and was super excited to have you come on here today. So. So to kind of get started, before we kind of go into the Welltok mission, just tell us about yourself.

April Gill: Yeah, happy to! So, I live in New Hampshire. I live in a relatively rural setting. I really enjoy gardening so this, this really works for me. I have a large family, I’m married, I have four children. We have a mother-in-law that also lives with us, which we love. That makes things very convenient for her and us.

I am super passionate about healthcare and healthcare IT and leveraging technology in order to improve access to care, particularly for populations that are disadvantaged. That’s what brought me to Welltok. It’s what’s driven my career. So, I’m happy to be here today.

Dr. Bill Ferro:  You know, you don’t look like a nerd, but you’re really a data nerd at the end of the day. I mean, really the roots of Welltok and the new things in healthcare all have to do with analytics. Can you kind of describe Welltok’s mission, which is important, but also how you guys are leveraging data and analytics that kind of shaped the way healthcare is, is being administered?

April Gill: Yeah. You know, it’s funny that you say that whole, “You don’t look like a nerd” kind of thing. If somebody had told me 10 years ago, or a little over 10 years ago, that I would be drawn to data and analytics, I would have said they were crazy, but I got involved with an organization and, and Welltok in leveraging data and analytics in a new way in healthcare. The concept of big data and machine-learning is something that’s been around since the ’80s.

So, that’s not a new concept. But leveraging data outside of the healthcare system for the purpose of understanding what people need or what political risks they have in healthcare is very new. In fact, it’s really ramped up over the past five years. And you know, what we do is taking vast amounts of data, we have a database of over 40 different data sources that we leverage in order to understand beyond just clinical risk; like, who might be at risk for hospitalization. But also, of the programs that are available to help support various populations, which are most likely to be of interest, be utilized and then ultimately deliver an outcome.

And we’ve seen pretty substantial results from leveraging that data. If you think about it, you really can only see 30% of what makes up a person from a data standpoint based on clinical information. It’s that consumer data, the social determinants of health that provide you with a 360-degree view. And we’ve seen significant changes in how we address the needs of a population based on that expanded data.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Yeah, that, that to me makes the most sense. Because like you just said, even just like 6, 7 years ago, when you really looked at just the health claim data alone, that was really only like 6 to 8% of human, right? And so, they started making all of these assumptions or correlations and said, “Well, the data says this.”

It’s like, “The data says this off of 6% of what you know about that person.” So, even thinking that you can make any predictions basically is false, but we kind of got stuck in that narrative. So the idea of bringing all that extra consumer data to really, you know, change the outcomes makes the most sense.

Would you say that when you add in the consumer data and yet in healthcare data, what are we still missing? What, what percentage of that data from that human are we missing that really could maybe be the, kind of the game changer?

April Gill:  I think that the thing that’s missing in this world and the thing that many are striving for is, is really real time. The dynamics of real time. So, people’s lives change all the time and whether or not I’m going to be you know, adherent to my medication regimen– I have asthma. And I am not adherent in the wintertime because I don’t have symptoms. You know? I know this about myself. They say healthcare people are terrible patients.

I’m a terrible patient. And in the spring and summer, when I’m outside walking or running, I have symptoms. So, I tend to be much more adherent during those times. That simple thing about me is information that’s really useful to organizations that are trying to support me and ensuring that my asthma is controlled.

So that’s just one example, and there are many others. When people move, if they lose their transportation, if they lose their financial stability, all of those things affect how an individual is going to respond to the resources that are provided. So, having the ability to understand that in real time, dynamically, is kind of the Holy grail of being able to then support in real time what an individual’s needs might be.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Absolutely. I think we can see that ourselves with better health when we’re, when we’re coaching folks to traditional approach to coaching for, let’s say diet and nutrition and lifestyle, is meet with somebody once every two weeks. If you’re lucky, once a month or once– and if it’s the doctor, it’s once every six months.

And boy, a lot happens just from the time they leave the office to three hours later, there’s a lot that happens. So when we’re– the reason why I’ve been so fanatical about getting everyone to give me their weight, picture, their food, sleep mood every single day, it’s the last 24 hours that matters. And having that real-time success because you can then build upon that last 24 hours.

Otherwise, you end up just showing up, “How did it go last month?” “Well, I had some good days, I had some bad days,” and then it’s just the person’s recollecting their situational analytics, right? Like, what’s the most prevalent to them? If they had a good day,” I’m doing great!” If they had a bad day, “I’m not doing so good.”

So, it’s the last 24 hours. And I think that for us, the challenge has been we’ve never had access to the healthcare data, real-time. So, we’re getting all the human data and their environment data and their lifestyle data, but a lot of times we don’t have access to their health claims data to showcase, “Hey, this person has reduced their medication” or “They were on this. They can probably reduce that,” which is interesting. Another whole other topic on transportation of healthcare data because right now I can get a signal back from Mars in seconds, but I can’t get data across the street about their healthcare. It’s, is, uh, interesting. So, in addition to all of this, I would like to tell everybody how we met.

So, I reached out to Doug Newell from Predilytics.

April Gill: Yes.

Dr. Bill Ferro: I forget how it’s– who told me to reach out to him, but I had all this data and I just wanted to get more from it. I wanted to help our customers and our patients do more. So I reached out to him, sent him all of this data, and he had like, give me just great insights.

So, when we talk about a data nerd, this guy is the nerd of all data nerds that– I love him. He’s phenomenal, infectious, and just super intelligent. And he gave us these insights and one of the insights he gave me April, which blew my mind, he said, “Okay, great. You have these people going through this protocol. They are losing all of this weight, they’re coming off their medication, A1C blood pressure.” He’s like, “Those are all phenomenal outcomes.” He goes, “First of all, you’re not charging enough because of the outcomes you’re getting.” He was able to figure that out from some data that he had. He said, “But you know, there’s so many more applications to your engagement protocol that could work.”

And I said, “Well, what does that, what specifically?” He’s like, “Well, I’ll give you an example.” And you just mentioned this about knowing where they live, their environment seasonally. He said, “If you applied your same engagement metric,” he said, “You tell me you’re having people drinking more water than they’re normally drinking. You could go to a population in Florida; 65 plus, particularly women between 68 and 72 are more likely to end up in the hospital in July and August in Florida due to dehydration.” He said, “So, if you were to engage all those people in June, you would probably save that health plan easily $350,000 of unnecessary people going.”

And that’s the stuff that blows my mind. And then he introduced me to you, and we got on the phone and we started talking. So, I would love for you to kind of, if you can re recollect kind of that first time we were talking and, and truly, maybe, you know, get into your head space when we first were having this conversation about potentially us working on the Welltok platform. And, you know, if you can recall at all.

April Gill: Yeah. I do recall the conversation. It was primarily focused on looking for a partner that could really help with supporting microbiome and my, you know, gut health. But as we talked, the more that you shared about what Betr Health does and the kinds of outcomes that you can deliver and the way in which the services are delivered, the more interesting that sounded to me. You know, as somebody who, like many others, you know, across the country and really in the world, who struggle with staying healthy, maintaining the best possible diet, I have allergies to certain foods. I have sensitivities to certain foods. And so, I immediately was like, “I should try this.”

And so, I was reluctant initially, to kind of share a little bit about my health with you since we were talking as kind of, business partners.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Yeah.

April Gill: But very quickly, I was able to enroll in the program. And, in fact, my whole family essentially did the program with me because I didn’t offer a choice. And, uh, it was pretty remarkable. I lost close to 30 pounds after, you know, a month of working through this maybe 6 weeks or so. My husband lost around 20, my daughters lost around 21, lost actually 32 pounds.

So, between the 6 of us, or 7 of us, with my mother-in-law, it was over a hundred pounds lost in that period of time. It was really amazing. And the idea that we could improve all of our numbers, which when my husband went back to the doctor, you know, his cholesterol was down, his blood pressure was down. So, it was pretty amazing.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Wow, that’s– I love to hear that. I didn’t know that part about your husband. So, that is phenomenal. Uh, Caitlin, why don’t you to jump in here and see if you have any questions for the lovely April.

Caitlin Brauner: Yeah, I mean, so April, I actually just um, I’m on, I’m on day 2 of level 1 today and kind of same, same thing.

I’m, I’m actually, I’m, I’m very big into health and fitness. So, I like to think I’m pretty educated in the space. But same thing as you, I’ve had food sensitivities. There are definitely healthy fruits and vegetables that I know seem to be triggers. So, I’m really looking forward to kind of figuring that out while going through this process.

So, I’m kind of just curious for you since, you know, you were able to lose weight and maybe you were able to find out kind of for you, what were those triggers? What what’d you find?

April Gill: Yeah. So, I knew initially that going in, that I have, have an allergy to gluten. So, I sort of started from there. I suspected that I had sensitivities to certain kinds of dairy, which was confirmed through this process.

So, I shouldn’t eat cheddar cheese as an example. I shouldn’t probably eat yogurt, either. The surprises for me were the vegetables. I love fruits and vegetables and pretty much any type. Cabbage doesn’t really work for me so well. Like, basically the cruciferous vegetables; brussel sprouts and broccoli, while they’re really good for me, they don’t make me make me feel very good. So, you know, there are things that I eat in moderation.

Caitlin Brauner: Yeah. I mean, that’s pretty huge to discover because we all think a vegetable is a vegetable. It’s healthy. I, this is what I should be eating. And then it kind of turns out that could be at the root of a lot of your, your gut issues. So, good for you for discovering that. I’m excited for myself to, to kind of go on the same path.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Well, Caitlin. You mentioned today that you did a Pilates class. Is that right?

Caitlin Brauner: I did.

Dr. Bill Ferro: You’re going to be starving today.

Caitlin Brauner: Oh, man. I feel like I’m hungry all the time. I work out every single day and I’m never not hungry.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Remember that this process is about reducing inflammation. So, in the first few days, you really want to reduce exercise to almost minimal. Otherwise, you could really go the other way. So, really keep that in mind because the initial goal is to reduce the inflammation, which will reduce the insulin resistance. That’s where your body will be in a state of ease. When it’s at a state of ease, it will start to convert that stubborn fat that everyone’s like, “No matter what I do, I can’t lose it. This is just the way it is.”

That’s just because there’s this dichotomy of your body doesn’t like to, you know, exercise and stress. It’s supposed to be a good stress when you can handle it, and then your body can repair. You’ve been doing it a long time, so most likely, your body can do it. But when you’re going through this really focusing on, you know, maybe I could take three days of rest and just let my– as hard as that might be mentally for you, you know, give yourself some rest to just sink into this process and let the baseline curve.

But I won’t make this– I won’t make this a training session. So, back to April and Welltok. What do you see? I know we mentioned a few emails back and forth in terms of the Medicare population, where do you see this going with, like, in the Medicare population, where does Welltok stamp its, stamp itself with when it comes to Medicare or Medicare advantage and what you see in that space, particularly when it comes to– What our audience doesn’t know is that there’s this kind of at-risk, paid-for performance process going on. Can you maybe speak to, A, what going at risk for health insurance plan or provider means? And where you see Welltok kind of fitting in that scenario?

April Gill: So, you know, the, the paid-for performance concept is interesting. You know, Welltok is an organization that’s focused on consumer activation has been working for years in the Medicare advantage space. There is a lot of opportunity there. And in fact, a good portion of our business is in Medicare advantage focused on closing care gaps, supporting medication adherence, and helping health plans retain their membership through improved member experiences. As it relates to paid-for performance, there’s kind of a split view on how that helps or hurts, right? So, on the one hand, it certainly supports spending money on higher quality instead of quantity.

Knowing the United States, we, we’re high quantity, right? And so, from that perspective, it’s very good. And certainly, if you can be outcomes driven and spend your dollars on the outcomes that you want, that should be positive. The challenge there is that from a provider perspective, it disincentivizes providers to treat populations that are disadvantaged or who lack access, those in lower income levels. Because it’s more difficult in those populations to maintain high levels of quality for the reasons that we were talking about earlier associated with the data, right?

So, lack of transportation, lack of financial resources, lack of education, fear and concern around the things that, you know, a physician or a pharmacist might be asking them to do. Lack of food, frankly, is a big problem.

And so, in a Medicare population, all those things are still true. And one of the things that I think is so great about Betr and how it addresses that, is the program that you offer where food is delivered directly to the home. We actually still order those meals directly to home because they’re amazing.

I know that they’re nutritious, I know that the food is organic, they taste great. That’s our kind of easy button when we don’t feel like cooking. So and my, my mother-in-law does too. So we’re, we all still are eating better, but I think that for Medicare advantage populations, what’s so great about that is it offers the opportunity for individuals to take advantage of the nutritious food without having to overcome some of the barriers like, being able to get around just to cook. Being able to get to the grocery store, not having delivery services, or whatever the case might be. There are many in a food desert out there. And this really solves that problem.

Dr. Bill Ferro: One of the health plans that we work with right now is actually subsidizing. We have 200 participants that are subsidizing the food. So, they’re actually giving $750 of gift cards towards the food. And we’ve gamified it where each day that they’re engaging with their coach, they’re basically earning points that turn into dollars spent rather than just say, “Here’s $750 of food and buy it all.”

And so, it’s staged over time. We just launched it. The people are so– this chokes me up. I can’t even say it, but people are so appreciative because they wanted to do something like this, right? They were– that’s what infuriates me about the way we built all of the other programs. We think that these people are– lack motivation and willpower and this, you know, they lack education.

No, they want to be healthy. They just don’t have the opportunity. And you should hear what they’re saying to the coaches. “This is saving my life.” I mean, beyond measure how happy they are that their health plan is coming in and saying, “Don’t worry, we’re going to give you some money towards the food.” And it makes sense for this organization to pay $700, $800 even per year to help them.

Because that person could go to the hospital tomorrow for something not necessary and it can cost $1,500. So, shipping this is a really important piece of it. And I can’t wait to see the outcomes of people. Already, I just know that the consumers just absolutely are so blown away. We’ve had them do a net promoter score when they started and just one weekend, it’s already gone up by like two points. So we’re measuring this because they’re like, “How did my health plan do this for me?” Because they’re used to the health plan saying no to everything. And you know, deny everything. Instead, they’re actually nourishing their population, which I think to your point will help the retention, of course. But ultimately, it’s going to reduce costs and we’re saving lives, which is kind of the, the three you want to accomplish.

So, April. You have been with Welltok how many years?

April Gill: I’ve been with Welltok for 8 years, including the time I was at Predilytics, which was acquired by Welltok in 2015.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Got it. If you could put your stamp on something, right? By the time you’re finished with what you’re doing at Welltok, what would be your stamp? What would you say, if I could accomplish X with my work at Welltok, what would that be? What would be your like, Grammy award winning, Oscar nomination moment in, in the healthcare space?

April Gill: That’s a good question. I, I gravitate towards organizations that are trying to create or drive transformation in healthcare. And Welltok is certainly one of those organizations. So, I would love to be able to say that, you know, I was part of creating a transformation. Driving better engagement, driving more participation in the kinds of programs that do create better health for the individuals who choose to participate in them, and expanding access.

So, when you think about the concept of digital health, especially now, right? In, in the time of COVID. It’s driven a lot more necessity for people to leverage digital health programming and tools. And I think it’s really demonstrated that it is a viable alternative for individuals who lack access, whether they can’t get an appointment because there’s no one to get an appointment with, or they can’t make it because they don’t have transportation or whatever the case might be.

Digital health options is a way to provide broader access to populations that can’t get it the traditional way. So, you know, I would love to look back on this and be able to say I had something to do with that transformation.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Well, you did, because you brought Betr Health to Welltok. I mean, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll share the award. We’ll struggle with the trophy together. You know what I love, love about working with the organization is even through emails, and this sounds cheesy, but I almost can feel smiles through emails. Like, your team is energized. This is not the norm when I’m dealing with typical, and I have a lot of partnerships out there.

It’s not the norm to have such enthusiasm and energy from healthcare organization. And here’s why. The elephant in the room is half the times, most of these companies are doing stuff that they know is not producing outcomes. Not really, you know, outcomes that, A, have a return on investment, B, that are actually making a huge, significant impact.

And I feel it when I speak to an HR director or benefits director, that’s like, “Oh, great. Another wellness program? Put it on the pile over there.” It’s almost like the DMV, they’re like, “Next!” Because they don’t believe it’s going to work. And you mentioned something about gardening earlier, which I kind of wanted to tie back in, is that the reason why they don’t think it’s going to work, and the reason why we feel like we might not be able to make a dent, is we keep bringing it back to the human and we keep blaming the human. And you just brought up all of the challenges of what the human has to be successful, right? Transportation access, and yet we blame that human for lack of motivation, willpower, education.

We are constantly blaming that person and if you’re out in your garden tomorrow and you look and there’s a plant not doing so well, do you yell at the plant? Did you have to go out to the plant every day and say, “You got this little buddy. You can grow. You can be amazing!” You didn’t have to do that. What you do check is, is there too much sun? Is it not enough sun? Is it getting enough water? Is it too much water? And if you’re truly, and this is what better health looks at, what’s the soil look like? What have we done to the soil? Is there runoff from the roof? Is there, you know, these people and all of Americans, whether you have financial means or not, are dealing with a soil that’s fairly polluted.

And that is wow, the root of all issues is the soil part of it. And so, when I go to these organizations, it’s like the hardest thing I have to convince them is that their people aren’t broken. Their plan is. Their plan keeps yelling at the plant telling the plant they can do more. And expecting the plant to do something with broken soil, not enough sun, not enough water, and wondering why this thing won’t grow.

And so then they spend all this extra money in propping the plant up with devices and expensive things and bringing the plant to the hospital. And it doesn’t do well there, and they get more fertilizers and stuff on it. And nothing ends up working. So, I love your organization because I know you, you must be making a difference because the people would not be that happy if they weren’t.

April Gill: I appreciate you saying that. That actually makes my day. You know, it’s interesting. The analogy that you’re making about gardening because the saddest part of what you said, which is completely true, is that that attitude is so systemic that we believe it. We believe it’s our fault. And in studies on plants and plant growth, if you play soothing, happy music to plants, they will grow better than if you play hateful, hard, you know, screaming kind of music at them.

And so, I think that there’s definitely something to that; to the extent that we can be compassionate and supportive and help people understand that this is not their fault and that their efforts matter. Even if they’re not seeing the results as immediately as they want, their efforts still matter. It completely changes how people feel about their health, about their body, about the system at large. And it’s just so important. It can’t be underscored enough.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Absolutely. Well, they, they start to believe they are the diagnosis. The diagnosis is manmade. We men made the diagnosis. We’re the ones that said, “I’ve got to give this a name.” We heap the gray area in life.

We always like the black and white. Well, that’s diabetes, that’s hypertension. And then we think it’s like this outside entity that has been thrusted upon you, that you now carry this diabetes and hypertension on your shoulder. That’s nothing. That’s the plant’s way of saying, “I have an issue.” All that is, is a dashboard light on your truck that says, “You need oil, or you need this.”

So, as soon as we say, “Well, let’s just focus here,” which is what we tend to do when it comes to the disease process, we’re just sick care. We’re not healthcare. Instead, we need to step back and it’s interesting as we talk about the underserved population and the population that can’t have transportation, doesn’t have the means, they’re struggling. But we also have executives in our own companies that are overweight and dealing with hypertension and diabetes and IBS. And I mean the explosion of inflammation.

I’d love for you to listen to our podcast on COVID-19 here, Dr. Wischmeyer from Duke University, talk about just all the explosion of autoimmune disease out of nowhere. And you’ve noticed that the worst part about auto-immune disease: Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s, colitis. Ask anyone where it came from. No idea. There’s no etiology, no one knows where these things have come from, right? For all of these years, we still don’t know. Maybe it’s just the soil, maybe it’s just dysfunction early on, but the point I’m trying to make is we had a guy in 2012, his name’s Paul, he ran the largest billing and management company for health clubs nationwide.

He was a hundred pounds overweight and I’d seen him at the health and fitness trade shows. Ironically, here, this big health and fitness trade show, imagine all these rows of exercise bikes and fitness people and people running around, coming up to you, throwing powder, new drinks in your face.

And you know, it’s all these fitness folks and here’s this man. Everyone loves him because he runs all of their health clubs, the backend billing. They were talking to me. We were mostly working through health clubs at that point, direct-to-consumer. It’s like, “Doc, everyone tells me how great your program is. I want to try it.”

I said, “Great. After the trade show, get on the phone.” This was before text messaging or anything. So I get on the phone with him and his wife. And his wife, Jen, it was just over the phone, I could tell she wasn’t hearing anything I was saying. She, you could just tell she was on the phone like this, right?

Like, “No, I’m not hearing you.” She had her arms folded and closed. So, finally I said, “Jen, this isn’t going to work without you helping,” you know, “I feel it. Just tell me what you’re feeling. Elephant in the room. Tell me.” And she goes, “Dr. Farrow. It’s nothing against you. I’m sure your program’s great. This man has no willpower and motivation.”

I said, “Okay.” And she’s like, “I will cook for him, I’ll make them good food, and he’ll do well for a little bit. But then I’ll find wrappers of junk food in his drawers, in the lid trap of the laundry,” and she’s like, “I give up. We have four beautiful kids and he’s going to have a heart attack and leave us here. So I don’t care what nice house we have or anything. I want him more than anything and he just doesn’t have the willpower and motivation.”

And I said, “Oh, Jan, that’s interesting you say that about that. I’m, I actually got to ask Paul a question. Paul, I got to ask you, how did you grow a company to over a billion dollars? How do you have 450 employees? How do you have a beautiful house and four kids? Can you explain to me how you did that without any willpower or motivation? Because that is, you know, that’s pretty impressive.”

And she’s, I know you could just hear like the silence, like, ‘Where are you going with this?” And I said, “Or is there any stress that comes along with a billion-dollar company, 6,000 clients, 450 employees, a nice house, a wife and four kids? Does that keep you up at night?” He’s like, “Every night.” And then it was like, I mean, I wish I could have been there to picture, but I could just picture them both like on speaker phone.

And so I’m like, “Jan, this man has been under so much stress physically and chemically that his body is demanding to be replenished with sodium, potassium, and sugar. That’s why he’s getting cravings. Just like if he would have run a marathon, you crave those things. He’s running a mental marathon every day. So, when you were feeding him those, the food in the past where it was counting calories and shakes and it was work, and then you were forcing him to the gym, all you were doing was compounding the inflammation and the stress on this poor man. And so that’s why he failed. He never had a chance.”

And then she started crying like crazy. She’s like, I’m like, “So you’ve been yelling at him, which is only making it worse.” That’s what we’re doing with our wellness programs. We’re yelling at our employees, were yelling at them. We, the doctors are yelling at them and we’re not getting anywhere.

And so, you said we need to play better music. We have to stop the hardcore rock and roll music and screaming at people. Just do it and play the plants and better music and nurse their soil. And five of the costliest chronic conditions will dissipate and vanish very quickly and easily.

April Gill: Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. That’s such an, that’s such an amazing story. I think that is unfortunately what many people experience. Before I started Betr, and before I started having challenges, I was a runner. I was struggling with a hip injury. I’m actually still struggling with a hip injury. And so I can’t run right now.

In fact, I can’t do much of anything right now. I’m in physical therapy. And when things like that happen or when your body changes, I mean, I’m a woman. When you hit a certain age, everything changes, and you have to completely rejigger your whole life to work around it. You know, my, my kids have this saying, “You don’t know my life.”

And so, when I feel people judging me or, you know, making disparaging comments or whatever, when I’m trying to deal with this stuff, that’s absolutely my response; “You don’t know my life.” You have no idea what I might be going through today or what I’ve been going through for the last month or a year or a number of years. And so, keep it to yourself. You know? We’re all works in progress.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Absolutely. Well, I’ll tell you, I’ll give you what you can say that my father used to say to people. And mind you, I’m from New York, so it’s not as bad as you think it was. But my dad, someone would say something, and they were like, the neighbor would come over and say like, “Hey, you left this trash out on the street,” or whatever. And he’d say, “Oh yeah, well, my grandfather lived to 110.” And they’d be like, “Your grandfather lived to 110 leaving the trash in the street?” And he goes, “No, but he minded his own business.”

April Gill: Well, that’s great.

So, Caitlin. I’m going to let you close this out and ask any consumer-driven questions. Like, you know, you’re someone who’s had healthcare in the past. And, you know, any consumer driven questions that you might have for April and, and kind of what Welltok is doing?

Caitlin Brauner: Yeah, I mean. I just think that Betr and Welltok are giving hope to people. You know, putting a focus on nutritional foods is a really revolutionary approach to healthcare versus just putting a band aid on with medication.

And as we’re talking about kind of, not dealing with the root cause. I mean, these people are just so accustomed to not getting any of the tools that they need to heal without just being put on medications for the rest of their lives and adding on more and more medications. So, just from a consumer standpoint, I mean, how are you telling people, you know, this is different? What you’re doing is different. They can be kind of more empowered to have a different outcome than the dismal ones that they’ve had beforehand.

April Gill: That’s an excellent question. The reality is we aren’t. Right? We’re having that conversation with those who sponsor the programs and the offerings that we provide that support overall better health and wellbeing.

But for the individual, the idea is that we are promoting educational information, programs and resources when they need it, so that it just appears. You know? If you think about what you see in your social media feed, that stuff just appears, right? Nobody says, “Hey, we’ve figured out that you need this thing.”

It just appears. And you’re like, “Oh, maybe I should consider this.” And that’s really been our approach. It’s a very consumer-centric approach. And it leverages what we can understand about people’s readiness to change. And what they really need when they need it so that we can promote and surface those resources when it’s most relevant.

I always use the example of EAP; the Employee Assistance Programs that are out there. Many plans offer them. There are many others that are available through third parties. They are amazing resources. They provide behavioral health, they provide legal support, they provide caregiver support, but when you need those things, you are in a crisis.

And guess what your brain does not do when you were in a crisis? It doesn’t think. It doesn’t remember what you have access to. And so, knowing that someone is, you know, in a difficult situation and that that’s something that they could need allows us to remind them when they’re in it, “Hey, these are resources that you could use to help get you through this.”

So, I just think that really it’s the only approach. When, when you say to people, “We’re doing everything differently and it’s going to be amazing,” they don’t believe you.

Caitlin Brauner: Right.

Dr. Bill Ferro: You, that is really great because, you know, I always tell people initially, when you’re– just, like you mentioned, if you go into a program that’s like, “You need to change. You need to change. Let’s go and try to psych them up.” But they’re already prioritizing anxiety and fear, right? Because they’re in a crisis. That other stuff actually could be a negative. Right? It actually makes it worse. What you just mentioned is being able to determine when they’re in that place so that the messaging can come across as, “Here’s a helping hand,” versus, “Oh, you have diabetes? You’re in a crisis? Well, then you need to do– you know what you need to do, get the blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”

This is a much better– oh, I really like that. And I think we need to– April, I think we need to change in organizations. Change the word to, not when you’re ready to change, but when you’re ready to bloom. Because you don’t need to change. You’re amazing. We just need to give you the nourishment so you can bloom. I like the idea that you’re able to identify those people in a consumer-driven way to where, as you mentioned, they’re already anxious, so just say, “Here’s a resource for you.”

It feels like it appears from God. It really just comes from analytics. Well, God created those too so we’re good. Um, but it comes out of nowhere. But it’s really not out of nowhere. It’s from assessing their needs and putting the right– it’s like predictive service model. You can predictably give them the service they need. Now, the Welltok thing just kind of clicked and sinks for me.

And so, I thank you for that because now I really see that as the truest value that you have is putting in at the right time in the right way. That’s beautiful. Awesome. April, any last parting words for the fans of Quacks and Hypochondriacs? Did you ever think you’d be on a podcast named Quacks and Hypochondriacs? I mean, what a crazy name.

April Gill: I never thought I’d be on a podcast. So I appreciate the opportunity. And I always joke with my family. I work for healthcare technology companies and I am a little bit technically challenged. So, I really appreciate the opportunity. This has been so fun. I am very excited about our partnership with Betr Health. So, thank you for that as well. And I look forward to us doing great things together.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Absolutely. Well, you’ve been a doll. You nailed your first podcast. I can tell you right now you nailed it. You did phenomenal. So, thank you very much. And I will be talking to you probably, probably later today or tomorrow.

So, we’ll get this partnership off the ground, but thank you so much again for joining us. I really appreciate it. My best to your family and your mother-in-law and keep enjoying those better meals.

April Gill: Likewise. It was my pleasure.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Awesome. Okay folks. That was– I almost cried. Caitlin, I don’t know if you got teary-eyed, but I–

Caitlin Brauner: Lots of emotions.

Dr. Bill Ferro: Yeah. A few emotions there. And so, I want to thank you for joining us. Of course, it was great to have April, Chief Strategy Officer of Welltok, visiting with us today. So, everyone that is listening, please check out welltok.com to learn more about their activation solutions. Caitlin, what did we learn today?

Caitlin Brauner: I mean, just as I said before, I think that Betr and Welltok are really just giving, giving hope to people. You know? Like you said, just about giving people the resources to bloom. I, I think that people don’t know that there’s another option out there. You know, being able to just kind of appear to people and show them that there’s another way. There is, there’s hope. There’s, there’s somebody there willing to kind of help them in a way that they haven’t been helped before is– it’s really powerful.

Dr. Bill Ferro: I meant what I said about the organization. You can literally feel people smiling through emails. I mean, if you get on the phone, it’s, “Hi. Great. We’re going to do this.” And innovation, Winston Ball is a gentleman I work with on their side. And talking about ways we can offer this direct-to-consumer, ways we can help more people.

It’s, the calls are always like, “Here’s a good idea. Here’s a good idea.” Normally, I can tell you, it’s “Nah, that’s not going to work.” They’re like, “That could work. Let’s make this happen.” Phenomenal organization. We’re super excited. So, everybody thank you so much for listening to the Quacks and Hypochondriacs Podcast.

If you liked the show, be sure to rate, review, subscribe, and do all of the things that help us and help you find the show for your next episode. And don’t forget to visit our sponsors. You know who our sponsor is, Caitlin? It’s amazing. It’s called, betrhealth.com. It’s not spelled the way you think. They left out a few letters in there, but B-E-T-R health.com.

The episode is produced by Earfluence. Oh boy, this is the best podcasting management company. They keep producing amazing podcasts, we’re getting tons of downloads, so thank you, Jason and Cee Cee from Earfluence. So with our special sub-guest, Caitlin Brauner. And I’m Dr. Bill Farrell. We’ll see you next time on Quacks and Hypochondriacs Podcast.

Full Episode Transcript

Visit our sponsor, BetrHealth.com, a gut healthy, effortless, food-as-medicine approach to whole person health . Try BetrHealth risk free at https://betrhealth.com/risk-free-trial/.

Quacks and Hypochondriacs is hosted by Dr Bill Ferro and Caitlin Brauner, and is produced by Earfluence.

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