How a Battle With Cancer Inspired a New Solution for Patient Care


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For this compelling episode of “The Founder CEO,” I had the privilege of interviewing Michael O’Neil, founder and CEO of GetWellNetwork. Michael shared the extraordinary inception story of GetWellNetwork, born out of his personal battle with cancer. We delved into his evolution as a business leader, his work with mission-driven investors, and the transformative role of AI in personalized healthcare. Michael’s insights on navigating the complexities of the healthcare system and the profound impact of patient engagement technology are truly inspiring. Don’t miss this dynamic conversation that highlights the future of healthcare.

Watch the full Founder CEO video interview here and see the takeaways below.

1. Inception and Evolution of GetWellNetwork

  • Personal Cancer Battle: Michael O’Neil’s diagnosis with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma during his JD MBA at Georgetown.
  • Idea Conception: The concept for GetWellNetwork was sketched on a napkin while hospitalized.
  • Initial Challenges: Limited early funding, with only $1 million raised to last four years for a small team.
  • Growth Journey: Transitioned from surviving on instinct and passion to incorporating data-driven decision-making.
  • Investor Relations: Raised venture capital, went through multiple recapitalizations and dealt with investor expectations and pressures.

2. Healthcare System Challenges and Innovations

  • Misaligned Incentives: Financial models in healthcare often lead to inadequate service for lower reimbursable patients.
  • Equity in Healthcare: Addressing disparities, such as higher mortality rates among black women, through targeted programs and patient engagement tools.
  • Role of AI: Use of AI for precision medicine and engagement, personalizing treatment plans, and improving patient adherence.
  • Patient Engagement: GetWellNetwork’s tools enhance patient care by providing personalized, digital-first experiences and supporting care teams’ efficiency.

3. Leadership and Organizational Growth

  • Leadership Evolution: Michael’s growth from a passionate founder to a data-driven CEO, balancing innovation and commercialization.
  • Talent Management: Recognizing the need to evolve the team as the company grows, anticipating strategic and talent needs.
  • Cultural Values: Emphasis on rooting for each other, sharing openly, striving for world-class standards, and valuing diversity.
  • Staying True to Mission: Maintaining focus on the core mission of helping people take an active role in their health journey despite changing investor landscapes and business pressures.

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