On the Record: Portland startup aims to ‘disrupt’ how employers approach health care benefits

On the Record: Portland startup aims to 'disrupt' how employers approach health care benefits

Colleen Kavanagh is the founder and CEO of SoulBeing, a Portland-based startup that connects employers with a network of alternative health and wellness providers as a holistic benefit for their employees. The entrepreneur, who started his career at GE Healthcare, envisions an integrated health care structure that works for everyone.

Mainebiz: At GE Healthcare, what is it like working for a large conglomerate?

Colleen Kavanagh: I run various imaging business units, including managing relationships with academic hospitals. I work with great people who think strategically about health care and work to make a positive impact. Work began to feel more disconnected from the mission, which led to my desire to do something more disruptive.

MB: What sparked the idea for SoulBeing?

CK: At GE, I know that 70% of people treated in hospitals today have preventable conditions. I started looking at alternative providers to manage my own chronic stress and experienced the effectiveness of working with a good provider, but they are often hard to find. I have carefully examined the reasons that these services – considered health care in other countries – are treated as luxury services here. That’s where the work begins.

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MB: What was the original business model when you launched SoulBeing in 2019?

CK: SoulBeing was originally a storefront and networking group for providers. The challenge that arises is that patients have trouble finding and paying for services. The need became apparent: We needed to make it easier for patients to navigate and pay for out-of-hospital care options while continuing to create meaningful connection points for community.

MB: What is the business model like now?

CK: We plan to create an infrastructure that treats complementary and alternative medicine services as health care and uses virtual care. We are structured as a health care benefit that offers a network of additional, Health Savings Account-eligible care options. People access our vetted network through their employer and use our care navigation platform to match providers in more than 50 service categories.

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MB: How have you funded your startup costs so far?

CK: A group of angel investors have supported our mission from the beginning. We are also supported by the Maine Venture Fund and the Maine Technology Institute.

MB: How do alternative providers like yoga instructors and acupuncturists fit into modern health care?

CK: All services in our network are complementary and alternative, meaning that they can be used in addition to conventional (hospital-based, pharmaceutical) methods, or instead of these options – consider physical therapy instead of, or for recovery from, an operation. . They may also be prevention-oriented or for condition/symptom management. By using these resources, other more expensive and high-risk services can become a last resort rather than a first line of defense.

MB: What is your request to employers and potential clients to work with SoulBeing?

CK: Health care costs continue to rise, but your people are not getting any healthier. Improve access to health care with multiple providers, and help your employees find more affordable care. Attract and retain talent through a culture of meaningful support for the physical, mental and emotional health of your team. You don’t have to choose between generations, onsite versus remote, or enrollment status of your employees. You can support them all with SoulBeing.

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MB: Anything you can share about what you charge employers for your services?

CK: By keeping our prices very low (under $10 per employee per month) we can increase access to health care while removing utilization metrics (for care benefits of health) from the park.

MB: What’s next for SoulBeing?

CK: We are expanding nationwide to accommodate our client base, as well as a strategic partnership with Walgreens. A fundraising round is on the horizon in early 2024 to leverage ourselves properly and establish a physical footprint in the Greater Portland area. We are excited to root and grow our business in the community we call home.