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How I built a thriving company around empathy

Quantum Health founder and CEO Kara Trott points out that ironically, healthcare isn’t consumer-centric, but it’s an industry ripe for empathy for individuals.

How I built a thriving company around empathy
[Photo: michael schaffler/Unsplash]

Like many young people starting their careers, I knew I wanted to change the world, but I didn’t have a clear vision of how. I graduated from college during an economic downturn and had limited job prospects, but was armed with an incredibly deep curiosity and ability to think about problems from different perspectives.

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Fast forward several years, a few different titles, a résumé of experience in market analysis and problem-solving, and a deep-seated belief that consumers deserve a better experience. I founded Quantum Health, a growing healthcare navigation and care coordination company that is changing the lives of people across the country. I can finally say, I’ve found my purpose and my passion.

Getting to my aha moment

The idea of solving business problems by looking at human behaviors and the human condition intrigued me. But using research and data to understand how and why consumers make purchase decisions at retail–so a company could sell more blouses (spoiler alert: It’s not about price)–wasn’t exactly the higher calling I envisioned.

I knew in my heart that if we changed the consumer experience, we could change lives and improve business. But the real aha moment came after I left my job in consulting, completed law school, and began working with a small group of healthcare providers to help them understand how they could improve patient compliance (that is, to get patients to follow doctors’ orders) and outcomes while driving cost out of the system.

Evolving toward empathy

Ironically, as an industry, healthcare is characteristically not consumer-centric. But as I continued to dig deep and lean into the problem, I held fast to the belief that the best solutions always come from a deep understanding of the consumer experience and an empathy and appreciation for consumers as people, not just another sale or transaction.

If you or a loved one has ever had an acute healthcare need or chronic condition, you know that consumers are like balls in a pinball machine, being bounced around from one provider to another with no clear direction. And they’re forced to make decisions and do research at a time when they’re stressed, preoccupied, and often not thinking clearly. The system was crying out for a better, more consumer-centric approach and my research revealed that the employer-sponsored health plan would be the best place to start.

So, I followed consumers, over 3,000 of them, through their healthcare journeys and interactions with their health plans and providers. I began asking “And then what?” and “What if?” and “How can we make this better?” This ultimately led to the evolution of my company, which is based on proprietary use of real-time data, along with a team of expert care coordinators™ who are trained on how to use empathy to interact with consumers early in their healthcare journeys to positively influence their experience and outcomes.

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You go through a lot of iterations as you’re building a company, but if your compass is always focused on the needs and experience of your consumer, you’ll find a quicker path to success. Here are a few of the lessons I have learned along my own journey as an entrepreneur and business leader.

Put yourself in their shoes

Our care coordinators start every conversation by asking themselves how it might affect our members. Train your team to understand this consumer perspective and how to communicate with empathy, and be sure you’re working from a base of shared values.

Build trust

As you build your team, trust them to make decisions based on a common mission. How to act on those values and mission should be part of your training. Ultimately, if you trust your team, others will trust your team, which will free you to focus on future business growth and how to meet changing consumer needs.

Strive to be game changers

Launching a company is a constant intellectual challenge, but if your work changes lives, it will also keep you and your team energized. Help employees understand and feel empowered to make the best decisions with the consumer in mind, and challenge them to think differently. For example, everyone in our company goes home each day knowing that what they do uniquely helped change the lives of the people and companies they serve.

Ask “And then what?” and “What if?”

In my experience, inside insight has rarely made as much of an impact as an outside perspective. Look for opportunities to ask questions of consumers or to observe their experience to understand how to improve your product or service. If you always ask the hard questions, you can uncover opportunities you never imagined to truly distinguish your company and brand.

As an entrepreneur, your focus may ultimately be on the bottom line, but remember: The road to profitability and growth is paved with a keen understanding of the consumer journey and a team that shares your passion for changing lives.

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Kara Trott is the founder and CEO of Quantum Health. Early in her career, Kara designed research-based consumer intercept strategies for major consumer brands Citibank, Ford, Walmart, and Coca-Cola. 

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