Disrupting the Healthcare Industry with Ali Diab, co-founder, and CEO of Collective Health

Play episode

Navigating the healthcare landscape as a patient or caregiver has never been more challenging. Ali Diab, co-founder, and CEO of Collective Health, has experienced this first hand and it was those challenges that motivated him to improve the quality and cost of company-sponsored health care.

On this episode of IT Visionaries, Ali discusses his personal journey through the healthcare system, and how he built Collective Health to help avoid pitfalls in the healthcare industry. Plus he touches on how advancement in technology is making a difference in healthcare, what he is doing to make a difference, and much more. 

Best Advice: “Yes, we are a technology company at heart, but at the end of the day, the greatest companies are customer-focused.”

Key Takeaways:

  • The need to disrupt the healthcare industry
  • What role technology can and will play in disruption
  • Where does A.I. fit in?

Why disrupt the healthcare industry?

Ali never planned to be in the healthcare industry. Rather, he was a product guy and interested in the internet and technology. It wasn’t until he got sick in 2013 that healthcare became a prominent fixture in Ali’s life. Ali had what’s known as a small intestinal Volvulus, which is when your small intestine twists in on itself. The result of this was multiple painful surgeries which led to numerous bills after his insurance denied him coverage. Ali could not understand the notices and codes his insurance company was sending him and was struck by how terrible the entire user experience was. The health insurance company had become too powerful and it was creating chaos that users couldn’t understand. Ali decided to create a solution built on complete transparency. 

“If you look at any major health insurance company, it’s an amalgamation of dozens of smaller regional insurance companies that have turned into these Frankenstein borgs.”

“If we want to fix this problem, we need to not only make the customer experience more transparent and easy to use, but we need to enable the people who are ultimately footing the bill aware of what they are paying for.”

“You don’t need to know bond math to understand your mortgage, so why do I need to understand every acronym and every medical term to understand my health benefit plan? You shouldn’t, it should be plain English. I think that that’s intentional. That’s the way the industry keeps us out and keeps us from poking at the beehive because if they hide behind a bunch of acronyms and weird terminology, it becomes prohibitive.”

“My hope in all of this is that we transform the industry and how it treats its customers and behaves writ large. Success for me would be if all large health insurance companies treated their customers like any great retail brand treats its customers.”

How technology plays a role

Ali believes that technology has helped democratize many things, and he wants to use technology to democratize the healthcare industry. Throughout the last seven years, Ali says that more than $30 billion has been invested in healthcare tech by VCs. That trend will continue as more healthcare apps and virtual doctors visits are becoming more common in people’s everyday lives. What Ali says Collective Health does is make it easy for people to get access to all the different healthcare options.

Technology also offers a way to personalize the healthcare experience more than ever before. With all of your health information digitized and linked to your own application, you can receive tailored results for healthcare options that make sense for you and disregards options that do not apply. And, when you are due for a certain test or appointment, you can be nudged by your technology to add that to the schedule. 

“Software will eventually enable all industry sectors to behave with the same kind of transparency and openness that the web does. And I think for me that’s one of the most exciting things about what we do. And while, yes, we are a technology company at heart, at the end of the day the greatest technology companies, the greatest companies period are customer-focused.” 

“The way that we consume health care is dramatically different than the way healthcare was consumed when the big health insurance industries came on the scene 50, 60, 70 years ago. Even 20 or 25 years ago, the principal way that you got healthcare was to go to the doctor’s office, or the emergency room or the hospital if you are really sick —  that was it. Now you can track your fertility cycle, you can have a behavioral health visit, a primary care visit, you can have medicines delivered and prescribed all using apps, all without ever having to leave your couch.”

Can A.I. help?

Many are worried about the role that A.I. will play in the world. The healthcare industry is not immune to that. But Ali believes that A.I. will be a useful tool to help doctors focus more on patients and less on tasks better-suited for a robot.

“The human brain has evolved over tens of thousands of years to be ultra sophisticated, not just the brain but also your limbic system, your gut, evolve to be a very sophisticated decision-making framework and complex, which even the most robust A.I. algorithms are still very, very far away from emulating. But I think a lot of the low-level tasks can be automated just like they have been in almost every industry.”

The investment in Collective Health

Ali reports that the team at Collective Health is very fortunate to have investors who are looking deep into the future. Collective Health’s investors include Google Ventures, NEA, and SoftBank, just to name a few, and all of them are invested in creating a longterm success.



Episode 117