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Business Growth
Mar 5, 2015

Taking A Bite Out Of Rising Health Costs

Sponsored Content provided by Jim Roberts - Executive Director, UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

This Insights is contributed by Peter Robichau (CISSP/PMP), founder and CEO of Trimlio Health. He is the author of Healthcare Information Privacy and Security – Regulatory Compliance and Data Security in the Age of Electronic Health Records.

2012 was the beginning of the routine that I would settle into for the next two years. I would join the rest of the bleary-eyed travelers on the 5:20 a.m. Monday flight out of Wilmington through Charlotte to work “somewhere else.” These flights were packed full of consultants, executives and others who choose to live in Wilmington and work somewhere else because, in most cases, they wanted to live in Wilmington (as I did), but the work was “everywhere but Wilmington.”

I managed to write a well-received book in my field (focused on health data privacy and security) from hotels and airports, and I acquired new credentials. The connections I made with experts and leaders in the health, technology and legal field were invaluable and stimulating, but I grew weary of life on the road.

During the next year, I followed stories in the Star News and Greater Wilmington Business Journal that pointed to new signs of life in our local entrepreneurial space. This was enough to give me the courage to switch up the revenue model.

November 2014 was my “business reboot month.” I established a board of directors, and spent several days with my board in Wrightsville Beach setting a vision for growth and building a business model that was sustainable.

Armed with a hefty dose of zeal and my newly hatched business plan, I stopped by the UNCW Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to see if there might be a fit for me there. I was convinced that the backing of an accelerator intent upon helping to building my business with me would be important.

My new venture, Trimlio Health, was hatched in response to two huge needs I encountered regularly in the business and health world – health care costs and health data privacy.

Annual health care spending is approaching $4 trillion annually with the majority of spending coming from the private sector. Most private insurance comes from employers who foot most health care expenses for employees who are, by and large, overweight, not well and costing business more every year. As a business owner, I saw my own family premiums and expenses skyrocket – it wasn’t long before I cut $10,000 from those expenses through self-insurance. I also lost 15 pounds that needed to come off. Employees of corporations, however, don’t see those costs and are fine with the status quo. Quite simply put, people don’t generally pursue something hard (like wellness) without some incentives like I had when I saw the true cost of my own health care.

The former head of OSHA, Edwin Foulke, notes, "If you don't address these issues [of obesity], the cost is going to be so great that it's going to affect the viability of the company."

Wellness programs across the country are notoriously ineffective. There is a theory that annual health screenings, walkathons and smoking cessation programs will lower employer health costs, but it isn’t working – costs are still skyrocketing and are eating profits or being passed down to the employees.

Employers can try to collect data on employees and address the pain points (those 25 percent of employees with multiple, chronic conditions), but this puts the employer on shaky legal ground and employees simply don’t trust their employers to handle their health data responsibly.

Trimlio acts as a private, third-party technology platform that engages employees through their employers’ wellness program using true incentives (driven by data) to improve wellness and lower health spending.
Health care spending is a financial time bomb in the corporate sector. The C-Suite is well aware of this. The technology is there to make an impact and avert a disaster before employees enter the system as high-risk and high-cost.

The consumer health data industry is a wide open, unregulated field right now; this won’t last. The corporate financial sector has figured out how to use “big data” to predict (mental and physical) health crises, and to act in its own financial interest, cancelling credit lines proactively in some cases. When employers begin to take the same, heavy-handed approach to employee wellness, employees are justifiably disengaged. A third party like Trimlio that is committed to health data privacy can step in and use an employee’s wellness data to save money.

Perhaps helping to raise the quality of life for these same people makes sense, too. People don’t like to carry around extra weight or struggle with chronic health issues. Trust me, I know.

Our team of experts is designing some exciting processes and technologies to engage health care consumers in an innovative way that can truly move the needle. It’s an exciting time to be in health care technology, and we’re glad to be innovating here in Wilmington with the CIE at our side.

The introductions to business partners and potential investors facilitated by the CIE have been priceless, and Trimlio is participating in the CIE’s inaugural business boot camp. Weekly networking events such as the Wednesday morning High Tide Breakfast have facilitated great relationships (and the opportunity to learn about some innovative businesses). I got much more than office space when I signed our lease – there is a network of like-minded professionals and mentors who are excited about seeing the next generation of businesses thrive here in the Port City. Trimlio is honored to be part of this.

Peter Robichau (CISSP/PMP) is the founder and CEO of Trimlio Health. He is the author of Healthcare Information Privacy and Security – Regulatory Compliance and Data Security in the Age of Electronic Health Records, and has a passion for protecting health data (which is private by nature, but has become a commodity in our modern age). Visit Trimlio.com or Robichau.com for more information.

Jim R. Roberts is the executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at UNC Wilmington. CIE is an accelerator for the startup community to help diversify the local economy with innovative companies that will pay higher wages. CIE is Jim’s fourth entrepreneurship organization within North Carolina and he is a former employee of the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

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