Healthcare is a controversial subject in many countries, notably so in the US, which is dealing with a healthcare system that’s proven to be inefficient and costly. Alternate solutions have been proposed, suggesting everything from state-run healthcare to nearly non-existent regulation. But a new solution for the healthcare system is emerging in a different way than many expected.
LEAGUE is a new app-based service that aims to change the healthcare system in both the US and Canada. The service was founded by a team led by Mike Serbinis, the founder and former CEO of Kobo, the e-reader company. I was able to chat with Serbinis last week about LEAGUE, learning more about the service and how it aims to solve parts of the complex issue surrounding healthcare.
Essentially, LEAGUE is a service that aims to personalize healthcare for each user. It began with a focus on prevention, going after the everyday issues that lead to chronic diseases and other health issues. With many health issues stemming from lifestyle diseases, it was shocking to find out that an average of just one percent of spending goes towards prevention of these diseases, with the rest simply going to treatment.
I asked Serbinis about the founding of LEAGUE and whether there was a specific event that began the process. Unfolding from that was an remarkable story, in which Serbinis recounted a trip to Los Angeles where he met two extremely important people: Bill Clinton and Patrick Soon-Shiong. Clinton and Soon-Shiong were engaged in a discussion about “the future of medicine, and in particular, how it would be genomics-based and more personalized.”
Serbinis’ attention was caught, however, by how little discussion there was about prevention and everyday health. There was also little talk of the issues in the healthcare system regarding insurance and how consumers deal with medical providers. From this, Serbinis saw an opportunity to improve and thus, the concept for LEAGUE was born.
What was that initial concept? Serbinis describes it as “extremely broad, transforming the consumer experience so that people could be empowered to be healthy every day.”
From that, the team began to look at the problems that were standing in the way of everyday health. Using the problems that it identified, the team began to solve them and quickly found itself involved in something much bigger than it’d ever anticipated.
Serbinis and team began to build LEAGUE in 2014, with the first launch of the service in Toronto in June 2015. Since then, the company rolled out to its first US city of Seattle with a launch in November 2015. As of the writing of this article, LEAGUE has expanded to Vancouver and will continue to roll out across the US and Canada over the coming year.
What the company recently realized is that it had built something far more expansive than it had ever anticipated. In Serbinis’s words, LEAGUE “built a provider network, a marketplace, an Amazon-like place to go find health and wellness providers, services and products that were rated, reviewed and geo-specific, a consumer experience to discover, schedule and pay, and an employer experience so that employers can easily on-board their employees to use [LEAGUE].”
“When you put all those things together, what you’ve got is an end-to-end way to move money that is far more efficient.”
This sentence strikes at the heart of what LEAGUE is about: efficiency. The service is essentially designed to trim off all of the excess offerings and inefficiency of traditional insurance and healthcare, rather allowing individuals to pick and choose their own personal health needs and then giving them the power to seek out solutions to those needs, without having to go through the complicated and often frustrating experience of using a middleman insurance provider.
LEAGUE is designed to make healthcare “consumer-centric,” which involves removing the system that’s been used by traditional insurance companies. Rather than offering a swath of benefits to employees, most of which are never used, LEAGUE instead allows employers to offer employees an array of choices that they can pick and choose from, ensuring that the benefits package is only offering benefits that are useful to each individual.
By cutting out the other inefficiencies in the process, LEAGUE is able to offer this enormous benefit in a way that offers substantial savings for both employers and employees, while also improving overall long-term health of users by gearing many services towards prevention.
Think of it this way. Perhaps you’re carrying too much weight and you recognize that it’s due, in large part, to a lack of exercise. You don’t know where to start with exercising and you’d like to have a few sessions with a personal trainer to help you get started. Unfortunately, your insurance package from work doesn’t cover personal training or exercise classes, and the cost is too high for you to sign up otherwise.
LEAGUE solves this, because rather than employers telling employees what benefits they have and don’t have, it allows employers to offer spending accounts for employees, who can then use LEAGUE to find and purchase the service that they need. If you need personal training sessions, you can simply find a provider through LEAGUE and purchase it through your employer-provided spending account, no hassle involved.
This ties in to the way in which LEAGUE saves money. With traditional insurance, it requires several rounds of communication, transfers of information and multiple channels all trying to accomplish something as simple as paying for a dental appointment. LEAGUE eliminates all of those excessive channels, and by doing so, saves the immense amounts of money that are needlessly spent during that process.
Serbinis put the process into a good example:
With LEAGUE, what you do is you go to the LEAGUE app, pick your dentist, you say, 'I'll take Tuesday at two o'clock for a cleaning,' and it's $130. You schedule the appointment, you go in for the appointment and at the end of the appointment, there's another $20 charge, so now it's $150. It's like the first time you walk out of an Uber cab and you have that funny feeling of, 'Wow, I guess I don't have to pay,' because you paid through the app. You walk out of the dental office and your 'claim' has automatically been handled and you get a debit against your health spending account for $150 and that's it. LEAGUE pays the provider and you're done.Mike SerbinisLEAGUE
Part of the beauty of LEAGUE is that it offers advancements for both employees and employers. An employer can sign up for LEAGUE in as little as 10 minutes, and by the end of that time, it can already begin offering health benefits to its employees through LEAGUE.
Not only is it fast, but it’s also very useful for employers, as LEAGUE offers data and analytics to employers on what services employees are actually using, allowing employers to see how those services tie in to employee performance and wellness. With LEAGUE, employers can find out the best ways to motivate and improve the health and wellness of employees. These improvements in health will, in turn, likely improve employee performance and in a larger scope, company performance.
The question is, will LEAGUE replace traditional insurance companies? Serbinis says that it depends on the customer. For some customers, LEAGUE will take the place of traditional insurance companies. The company has expanded beyond just health and wellness and now offers a full array of dental, vision and medical benefits, allowing it to cover all of the same categories as traditional health insurance.
For other customers, LEAGUE functions as an add-on to insurance policies that don’t offer health and wellness benefits. With the flexibility of LEAGUE spending accounts, the service doesn’t need to be the exclusive provider for a company, and as such, it can function as an add-on, offering extra benefits that employees can choose to use if they so desire.
LEAGUE is a company that’s been founded to help consumers, which is the base on which all successful companies must be founded. After finishing our chat, I came away enlightened and excited about the future of LEAGUE. Serbinis and his team have struck into something incredible, and if the company’s growth is any indicator of success, LEAGUE is going to forever change the way we think about healthcare.