As a marathon runner and triathlete, Heather Staples Lavoie has learned to push limits and continually redefine success. Her experience in healthcare has also been a marathon, spanning independent physician practices, health insurance companies and software development firms. For more than 25 years, Heather has established herself as a leader and passionate advocate for excellence in health care.
The Starting Point
As President and Chief Operating Officer of Geneia, Heather has overall responsibility for launching and supporting new products and services. These innovations sit at the intersection of personalized and population health, and help healthcare organizations transform the way they deliver care.
Launched from its origins as a healthcare consulting services organization, Geneia broadened its reach in 2012 to build clinical, technical and analytic solutions that improve lives. With Geneia, Heather set out to advance a healthcare industry that was clearly lagging behind other industries in technological innovation and analytics. She explains, “With spending on healthcare in the United States exceeding three trillion dollars per year, quality and outcomes that fall behind that of every other industrialized nation, and a dearth of meaningful insight into drivers and solutions, the market needs were quite clear to us.” Geneia was able to fill that gap while concurrently helping to inform and transform the practice of medicine.
The Big Break
It took many years for Geneia to begin seeing real viability for their analytic and remote patient monitoring solutions. However, as technology advanced and became more affordable, adoption of these products increased. As well, initiatives such as the HITEC and Affordable Care Act created an environment where there was sufficient impetus for stakeholders to work in earnest towards improvement in healthcare cost and quality.
“Our people are our greatest resource. They have tirelessly committed to a vision and weathered the highs and lows that accompany any early venture. They have each learned so much and have taught us so much along the way. Most importantly, they keep our customers happy.”
Heather points out that they were also incredibly fortunate to secure sufficient funding that took a long view of the company, in the form of early acquisition by their parent organization. This structure provided sufficient runway to build products more fully, perfect implementation and support services, and secure global strategic partnerships.
Like any startup marathon, Geneia faced some challenges along the road. Finding the right blend of experience and entrepreneurism in an emerging market has been particularly tough, since Geneia is paving new ground. Geneia is also up against some of the biggest, most well-established organizations in healthcare who also see the market opportunities. Still, Heather believes their products are superior and that they are in a much better position to provide truly customer-centric solutions.
Growing a start-up under the umbrella of a historically risk-averse, well-established company has posed culture development challenges as well. It has forced them to be very explicit about their vision and values. They are also taking the time, at every level of the organization, to articulate, model, and reinforce desired behaviors. Because they have two different cultures at play, they have to be even more intentional about this work than traditional start-ups, where culture can evolve more organically.
Heather and Geneia are proud to be established in New Hampshire.
“NH provides for ready access to a talented, experienced high-tech and health care labor pool, an airport that is easy to get in and out of and readily connects us to the rest of the country, and tax-free income and a great quality of life which is critical for recruitment. Additionally, we also see the strong potential in the programs being launched at the University of New Hampshire, which will turn out new medical informaticists, software engineers and data scientists, talent essential for our growth yet in high demand by our industry and our competitors.”
Words of Wisdom
A very healthy portion of Geneia’s time and budget is tied to ongoing research, development and market intelligence. Heather advises, “Be bold, but don’t start with a product or service that is looking for a customer, rather identify a market need.” She also recommends hiring a good blend of youth and experience, and being deliberate about funding choices. She explains that financial backers can do more to influence the strategy, direction and culture of the organization than one might imagine, particularly in the early stages.
“Don’t underestimate how all-consuming, yet rewarding, a start-up can be. We have made some of our closest friends and confidants through start-up experiences.”