Health Tech: Dave Francis On How Healthpilot’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our…

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Health Tech: Dave Francis On How Healthpilot’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness

Be firmly committed to your mission, but flexible in approach. We know that we don’t have all of the answers, but we are dedicated to doing our best to find them for our customers. Never-ending research, data-driven decisions, constant testing and an unwillingness to settle keep us focused on delivering what is best for our customers. The mission, however, never changes.

In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course, many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Francis, co-founder and CEO of Healthpilot.

Dave Francis is CEO of Healthpilot. For three decades, Dave has been at the forefront of leveraging information technology in the health care market. He co-founded Healthpilot to be a deep, trusted partner of every health care consumer. The Healthpilot platform transforms the Medicare insurance and Senior health market by allowing each customer to very simply find and enroll in the best Medicare insurance plan that meets their specific needs — today and for the rest of their lives.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?

I am blessed to have had a great family growing up with loving and supportive parents who instilled a strong work ethic in me. I was an overachiever, largely because I was a grinder. I played three sports and worked throughout high school and college (two full-time jobs during summers). I was competitive. Really competitive. I ran Ironman triathlons in college. To say I am driven would be an understatement.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I had a meeting scheduled with a client on one of the top floors of the World Trade Center for 8am on September 12, 2001. The morning of September 11, I flew to Kansas City for a meeting only to land and see the attacks in Lower Manhattan on the airport televisions. The thoughts that go through one’s mind in the aftermath of that event — that but for the Grace of God I could have been one of the unfortunate casualties — create a sense of purpose and gratitude that is lifelong in nature.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am so grateful for all of the people who have taught and poured into me and my success over the years. There are two, particularly, who stand out, however. Professionally, Gretchen Knoell was one of the few women to successfully found a boutique technology investment bank in the 1990s. She hired me straight out of college — her trust in me and willingness to rely on a hungry young kid to help her build a business was an incredible learning and professional experience for which I will be forever grateful. On the personal side, Dr. Chip Dodd in Nashville quite literally saved my life and set me on a course to realize my full potential as a husband, a father, a friend and a leader.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Don’t be afraid to fail” has become cliché, but it is so important in every aspect of personal and professional life. That, along with its first cousin, “You don’t get if you don’t ask,” is something I tell my kids all the time. Lastly, “Do better” is tattooed on my psyche — it keeps me from getting complacent or satisfied. All three speak to the drive and competitiveness that has helped me to be successful throughout my career and are at the core of starting a new business with a mission to help tens of millions of people.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Humility. Knowing what I am good at, what I am not good at, and being willing to ask for help are so important in success and leadership. As I assembled the team that would be the foundation for Healthpilot, my ability to ask for the help and commitment of the incredibly talented and excellent people who I knew the business would need to be successful — and to let them know that the successes of the team would be shared and not mine — allowed us to assemble a world-class group of committed, incredibly talented professionals. It is a special group that I am humbled to be a part of every day.

Accountability. The willingness to be held accountable — in both success and failure — is foundational to my and our company’s success. Transparency is a major part of being accountable and taking ownership. The commitment to being clear in setting goals, assigning ownership, measuring success and taking responsibility for the result is the mark of a strong leader — in good times and in bad. It is remarkable how much power there is in taking full ownership of a bad result. Strong leaders are built not just on their success, but in how they use and own failure to inform and shape future success.

Empathy. As a customer-centric business, it is impossible for Healthpilot to be successful if we are not able and willing to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and understand the unique challenges faced by seniors in accessing the health care they require. The anxieties they face. The lack of resources to help them. The bad actors they need to avoid. To become a truly trusted, life-long partner with every one of our customers, we need to be completely vulnerable and empathic to their needs, feelings, fears and struggles to build a solution that they can trust and rely upon to live their best lives. At its core, our business is not about dollars and cents — it is about our mission to “Make health care easy, efficient and effective” that connects us uniquely with every one of our customers and creates the foundation for long lasting success and value creation.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?

The Medicare insurance market is, quite literally, a horror show to navigate for seniors and anyone eligible for Medicare. They don’t understand health insurance. Most, for the first time in their adult lives, are on their own to figure it out (their employer is no longer standing behind them). There is no easy to access trusted source of truth to do research. There are too many choices (over 6,000 Medicare Advantage plans alone across the US). The market is stuck in 1985 with a people-heavy, non-existent technology infrastructure. There are a lot a bad actors trying to take advantage of them. Our surveys show that seniors ascribe an NPS score to the Medicare shopping experience of -15…that’s NEGATIVE FIFTEEN! That is worse than cable or internet service providers who are universally hated. It is no wonder that nearly 90% of seniors are paying too much for their current Medicare coverage given their individual health and economic circumstances (costing them hundreds if not thousands of dollars per year) yet only 11% of the Medicare population shopped and switched plans during the 2022 enrollment season. The complexity, frustration and angst are too much for most seniors to deal with. With 65 million seniors in the US (growing to 75 million by the end of the decade), our greatest generation deserves better…MUCH better.

How do you think your technology can address this?

Well, to put it simply, we’ve made Medicare EASY. We built Healthpilot to eliminate everything that is complex, frustrating, time-consuming and nerve-wracking for every one of those 65 million Medicare-eligible customers and replace it with an easy-to-use, confidence-inspiring, personalized online engagement and enrollment experience that gets every customer into the best health insurance plan for them. Just as importantly, we stay connected to each of those customers for the rest of their lives, making sure that as their wellness and health needs change, their insurance changes with them — for their doctors, their medications, their pharmacies. We make sure that they are always in the best Medicare plan that meets all of their health care and economic needs.

Our technology platform offers everything the customer needs to make a decision and enroll in a plan. A world-class education and information center to learn as much as they want about Medicare insurance products. An intuitive and easy-to-use digital platform to securely take their information to recommend the best plan for them. A proprietary, proven AI-driven recommendation engine to take the guesswork out of finding the very best plan for them. A team of licensed service agents to help them if they have questions (not pressure them into a sale). Life-long engagement with the customer through email and a simple mobile app to keep them optimally insured and engaged with the best health care. Healthpilot lifts the burden of health insurance from the shoulders of every customer so they can live their best lives knowing that we have their health care covered.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

For years, I have had a passion for the use of information technology on behalf of the long-forgotten health care consumer. Having led the turnaround of a Medicare-focused business, I saw firsthand the tremendous struggles and anxieties that seniors had in navigating this critical part of their lives. I listened to hundreds of phone calls with seniors trying to find the right health insurance solution, desperate for information and help. The emotional nature of this problem is palpable. The tears, the frustrations, the lack of help and empathy from sales agents, the fear of not knowing if they had the right coverage. It’s just an awful experience for the customer.

The opportunity to create an “Amazon-like” digital platform — simple for the customer to use while solving the massive complexities in the market that create such large problems — was apparent.

I knew that the solution would be hard to build, but that technology was the only solution to the problem. To solve these problems on a personalized basis at scale — information, decision-support, a broad marketplace of Medicare products with the assistance to pick the best one for each customer — an elegant technology platform is the only solution. I was confident with the right team, combined with the right mission and culture to meet the needs of the large and growing senior market, we could crack the code and transform the market. We launched Healthpilot in late 2021 — we are here to serve.

How do you think this might change the world?

We believe that we will make health care better for the world of the 65 million seniors in the US. Our personalized solution ensures that every Healthpilot customer has the best health insurance for them today — and for the rest of their lives. The result is to make seniors happier, healthier, wealthier and put them in a position to live their best lives. Our platform is transformational for the industry, but more importantly, it is transformational for our customers’ worlds.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Other than making it harder for insurance sales agents and companies that don’t have the customers’ best interests at heart…I cannot think of a single one.

Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)

I will keep it simple and give you three:

Be maniacal about your customer’s experience. By making the customer’s experience in the technology journey your North Star, product and business decisions become very simple. Our motto — “Customer first. Always.” — guides every single thing we do at Healthpilot.

Be firmly committed to your mission, but flexible in approach. We know that we don’t have all of the answers, but we are dedicated to doing our best to find them for our customers. Never-ending research, data-driven decisions, constant testing and an unwillingness to settle keep us focused on delivering what is best for our customers. The mission, however, never changes.

Excellence is the standard. Period. Whether it is the product, the platform, the service organization or the people — especially our people — the standard to which we hold ourselves is always “excellent.” Our customers suffer if we settle for anything less and our mission goes unfulfilled if we are not performing at an excellent level. This ultimately comes down to people and culture — hiring well, creating transparency and holding each other accountable is the key to creating an unyielding standard of excellence.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Find something that gives you joy and feeds your passion. Whatever that passion is, you will almost certainly find that is has so much more to do with others than it does with you, and the economic benefits will follow. The purpose of your mission will fuel your drive and that of your team. There are plenty of high paying “jobs” that fail to feed your passion and your purpose and will leave you unfulfilled. Your true passion will almost certainly have an outward facing mission at its core — once you find that passion and purpose, the rest will follow naturally.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I enjoy studying the transformational leaders of our time…Musk, Hastings, Bezos. If I had to pick one, it would be Jeff. We have modeled much of our work and approach at Healthpilot on Amazon’s approach to its markets. Maniacal customer focus, digital-first, constant testing and iteration, data-driven decisions and accountability, deep commitment to excellence in every way. Also, the world needs more successful bald guys.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

We have a wealth of information on our website, You’ll find articles, videos and blog posts with everything you need to know about Medicare. You can also follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook to keep up with the latest on Healthpilot.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.

Health Tech: Dave Francis On How Healthpilot’s Technology Can Make An Important Impact On Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.