Wildflower Health’s Free, DTC Mobile App Paves Way to Enterprise Versions
As mobile apps continue to make inroads into the healthcare industry, Wildflower Health has emerged as an innovative leader with its new program Due Date Plus which helps pregnant women monitor their health. The company’s start-up savvy co-founders, Leah Sparks and Kathy Bellevin, were able to go from idea to funding in less than a year by deploying a free, direct-to-consumer (DTC) version of the app as a gateway to prove user engagement and gain credibility in the B2B space.
“Having an initial product that takes off, as Due Date Plus did, helps immensely when trying to prove yourself at the enterprise level,” explained Sparks. “This phase was vital in securing our initial funding and getting our first clients in the door.”
The idea for Due Date Plus grew out of Sparks’ and Bellevin’s personal as well as professional experience. The two met at DNA Direct where Sparks had been instrumental in securing Series B venture funding to close DNA Direct’s first customer contracts while Bellevin led the product team. In her personal life, Sparks had suffered several miscarriages, which spurred her inquiry into the maternity space.
“Figuring out what was going wrong was trial and error medicine,” said Sparks. “I realized there was a huge gap in the healthcare system in supporting pregnant women if there are complications.”
As she dug deeper into the economics of the healthcare system, Sparks learned that the largest driver of hospital charges in the U.S. is pregnancy and childbirth, and two-thirds of those costs are for complications.
Thus, Sparks and Bellevin founded Wildflower Health in June, 2012 with an idea was for a mobile program to help women track her pregnancy milestones and get advice and actions to support their pregnancy journeys. The idea is to help women resolve a range of pregnancy issues with information, self-care, and provider assistance and actions right on their phones. The program would be further enhanced by tying actions directly to the benefits and programs available from their health plans, making the mobile program highly actionable.
After gathering information from hundreds of pregnant women, health plans and employers to develop their product design, Sparks and Bellevin began searching for a technical partner. “We knew how we wanted the app to function and look, but we needed a strong technical group who could partner with us on development,” explained Bellevin. “Plus, they needed to understand the unique challenges of a start-up. Our timeline and budget were both tight.
They found what they were looking for at Coherent Solutions. Headquartered in Minneapolis, Coherent has a US-based technical team and a development center with 300+ people in Minsk, Belarus. The company has been the engine behind dozens of technology start-ups. Bellevin and Sparks were impressed with Coherent’s background in healthcare software development and their willingness to provide input.
“Our Coherent team is very responsive and everyone on the team contributes to thinking through feature implementation,” said Bellevin. “I appreciate when they offer alternatives and explain why something might work better this way or that. They don’t throw up barriers, they present us with choices.
Wildflower needed to create an engaging experience for pregnant women, while collecting data to create a full picture of health issues. “Showing that we could attract and engage pregnant women was important to attract investors and clients,” said Bellevin. “It also helped us refine the product in an iterative way where we could see how adding new features improved the way our customers interacted with due Date Plus.
Coherent’s team got on the app right away, creating the first, free iteration of Due Date Plus in just ten weeks. The DTC app includes key engagement tools and clinical content that make the program compelling. Topics include common concerns like nausea, fatigue, weight gain and nutrition, as well as diagnosed conditions like gestational diabetes, and important health history considerations like preterm births. Users can check milestones such as when a heart beat can be heard or when they are likely to feel movement from the baby.
Within the first year more than 50,000 pregnant women had downloaded Due Date Plus. Wildflower measured usage, gathering feedback on the content and feature set to make changes and updates. Having proven the application’s effectiveness with the DTC version, Wildflower was well-positioned to roll-out its enterprise program in December 2013.
“By providing continuous engagement and a complete offering of options, Due Date Plus can more effectively help a woman reduce complications and have better outcomes for her and her baby,” said Sparks. “At the same time, this helps make health plan programs more effective and reduce overall costs to the system.”
The win/win of the app for users and the healthcare system was also a win for Wildflower Health. Sparks has had a personal win too. She gave birth to a healthy baby boy in late 2012.