Ep034: Michael O’Neil on Healthcare as a Team Sport

By July 11, 2017Podcast

Almost two decades ago, Michael O’Neil lay on a hospital bed awaiting chemotherapy having just recently been informed he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He had more questions than he had answers, and had no where to turn at the bedside to get informed and be engaged.

That was the genesis for his rapidly growing and global company called Get Well Network – designed to educate, inform, and engage the patient throughout the course of their medical management.

At a time when Google was just an infant, Facebook had not been conceived, and smart phones were just a futuristic vision…Michael charted into unknown territory and not only beat the odds in defeating his cancer, but also grew Get Well Network into a behemoth of company busting through walls as a pioneer in the patient engagement space.

On this episode, Michael shares it all…from how his experience of being diagnosed with cancer prompted the idea for Get Well Network, to the hurdles he had to overcome along the way, to where he believes the market has evolved over the past 20 years. All this and more on today’s episode.

Now, That’s Unusual.

About Michael O’Neil

The healthcare tech industry chose Michael O’Neil in 1999 when he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 28-years-old, completing his graduate work at Georgetown when he received the diagnosis, and the experience of having the tumor removed and enduring four cycles of chemotherapy led him to envision a more connected environment where a patient was empowered with access to information at the point of care.

O’Neil founded GetWellNetwork in 2000 with the intention of partnering with hospitals to improve outcomes through patient engagement. The leading provider of interactive patient care solutions, the GetWellNetwork patient engagement platform is exclusively endorsed by the American Hospital Association and the DAISY Foundation for Nursing. The company works with 500 hospitals and 300 clinics to incorporate its Interactive Patient Care model across the continuum of care. Last year alone, four million patients were admitted to a GetWell bed and a million and a half patients came through a GetWell clinic.

GetWellNetwork has been named to the Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and Inc. 5000 lists as one of America’s fastest growing private companies. In addition, O’Neil was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year for 2016 in the health category for the Mid-Atlantic region. He is a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization as well as Mindshare, a group of high-tech CEOs who seek to foster entrepreneurship in Washington DC.

Key Interview Takeaways

GetWellNetwork is focused on helping people live their best lives by taking an active role in their health journey. The team works with providers to create a patient-centered care experience that drives improved healthcare outcomes.

O’Neil has observed two major changes for the better in the healthcare space over the last decade: 1) The convergence of healthcare information technology and consumer technology to reframe how care is delivered, and 2) A shift in the regulatory environment to a value-based care model that emphasizes patient engagement.

The success of GetWellNetwork can be attributed to the fact that it got into the guts of healthcare delivery. Being imbedded in hospitals (a ‘captive environment’ where patients are most engaged) has afforded the company the credibility to now serve patients outside the clinical setting where they are tracking their own care.

GetWellNetwork employs clinical statisticians to measure outcomes around readmission rates, fall rates, medication adherence, hospital admissions and satisfaction scores. This data analysis demonstrates value and provides accountability.

Patient engagement is a team sport with the patient serving as quarterback. For that reason, GetWellNetwork applies an inside-out model, developing digital pathways that are prescribed by the care team.

Healthcare must employ a hybrid of digital and human engagement. GetWellNetwork has introduced a PEI score that measures a patient’s capacity to engage in their own self-care; this allows for a significant pickup in efficiency in which providers can identify those patients who need additional support.

A whole-person health delivery model requires a patient to understand their condition and articulate what they want their health for. This makes the relationship between provider and patient deeper more quickly, and increases the patient’s willingness and capability to follow a healthcare plan at home.

The biggest mistake O’Neil made in the development of GetWellNetwork was developing a solution that didn’t include patients’ families. He now recognizes that some patients may be too young or too sick to engage, and families are a necessary part of the dynamic, personalized team.

The price of greatness is high, but the pursuit of that greatness is the greatest gift you can give the world. It’s important to take risks, to be okay with failing, and to get back up as many times as it takes.


Raj Panjabi TED Talk

Connect with Michael O’Neil


GetWellNetwork on Facebook

Michael on Twitter


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