Virgin Pulse, HealthComp unveil rebrand as employer health company eyes accelerated growth

Three months following the merger of Virgin Pulse and benefits administrator HealthComp, the combined company has rebranded as Personify Health with its sights set on revamping the patient experience.

The two companies merged in November 2023 and have since introduced what it calls a personalized health platform that combines HealthComp's health plan administration capabilities with Virgin Pulse's health, wellbeing and navigation solutions, Chris Michalak, CEO of Personify Health, previously CEO of Virgin Pulse, told Fierce Healthcare in an exclusive interview.

"Personify Health aligns very well with where we're going as a company. We talked about launching a personalized health platform and that's going to be the foundation of what we bring to clients in the market," Michalak said. "This is a platform that they can customize to the needs of their population, as well as a platform that works for their members, a customized experience for each and every member wherever they are in their healthcare journey. Personify captures the essence of what we're trying to be and how we're trying to distinguish our company from others in the healthcare space."

Personify Health works with 1,000 self-insured employers and has 7,500 overall clients including through health plan partnerships, Michalak said. The company serves more than 18 million members.

The combined company's value is $3 billion, the companies said when they announced the deal back in late September. New Mountain Capital is the majority owner of Personify Health, alongside shareholders Blackstone, Marlin Equity Partners and Morgan Health.

At the time of the merger, the two companies said they aimed to drive lower costs and improve outcomes for employers. Bringing the companies together will create a tech-enabled platform that can develop novel benefit designs while leveraging artificial intelligence to track and improve outcomes, company executives said. 

As consumer-driven healthcare continues to reshape the market, patients and employees are demanding a healthcare experience that is more convenient, digitally enabled and seamless. At the same time, employers face rising healthcare costs. This is where Personify Health sees a big opportunity to leverage its tech to change how members engage with and navigate the healthcare ecosystem, according to executives.

"There are two fundamental things that we deliver that are distinguished in the marketplace. One is a really connected consumer experience. We think the market lacks a connected user experience so that members can do everything from see their claims to their EOB, to their card, all the way through to their well-being activities, their care management pathways and their chronic condition management and the partners that their company provides to them," he said.

"We think there are very few platforms that have that kind of breadth and comprehensive capability, let alone the ability to personalize that experience, leveraging data that comes into the platform," Michalak said.

Through the merger, Virgin Pulse brought to the table a consumer-centric member experience capability and HealthComp contributed a client-facing member experience, at a call center level, he noted. "The ability to provide a great consumer experience digitally supported by a great member experience with a human touch, that combination is going to be powerful as we help individual people address their greatest needs in healthcare," he said.

Personify Health contends that its data-driven, personalized approach combined with "concierge-level" clinical services helps to drive higher engagement with members to more effectively address their healthcare needs while also being more cost-effective.

The company claims it has many levers it can pull to help address increasing healthcare costs.

"Cost has become a real focus. We think there are very few, if any, providers that have five sources of cost savings that they can generate. We're going to be able to save people money in the way that we administer the benefit and our utilization management process and payment integrity capability around health plan administration also will enable us to drive cost savings," Michalak said.

The company also will leverage its health tech and benefits administration capabilities to focus on preventative healthcare services and chronic condition management to address medication adherence and close gaps in care, he added.

"We'll be able to save money for our clients through care management and taking the most acute issues and directing them to the proper care pathways," he said.

Michalak claims Personify Health can drive upwards of 20% cost savings for its clients by tapping into the combined capabilities of Virgin Pulse and HealthComp.

"The trend around consolidation, the trend around cost control and the trend around creating a better consumer experience in healthcare is going to put us in a position where we're addressing the biggest challenges in the healthcare marketplace," he noted.

The company is targeting double-digit growth in the employer health space, according to Michalak.

"We think this is a particularly important year for us to demonstrate the ability to bring the Virgin Pulse capability into the HealthComp base and the HealthComp capability into the Virgin Pulse base. We think, across 1,000 direct clients that we have and 18 million members, there's ample opportunity for us to enhance our clients' ability to serve their members well by bringing this broader set of capabilities and knitting together things that they're already doing," Michalak said.

As digital health solutions have proliferated, employers report that they are struggling with multiple vendors behind an organization’s total benefits program.

"By bringing a broader and more consultative capability to them, we will personalize a set of capabilities that enables them to simplify the experience for themselves and for their members. That's a big part of our push in 2024," he added.

Virgin Pulse built a network of 70 health and wellness and digital health partners over the past decade that Personify Health clients can now plug into.

"We can now extend those contracts into point solution providers and then build, through single sign-on and other APIs, directly into the platform. We're simplifying their ability to deploy the right point solutions on a single platform and through a single contract," Michalak noted. 

He added, "On the cost side, we'll help them to understand which of those point solutions is making a difference, which ones are being utilized, which ones are driving cost savings and which ones matter to members. The insights that we will develop with the data we collect will also be crucial in helping them to customize the model for themselves, for their employee base and for the members that they serve."

The combined platform also provides a "one-stop shop" for employees to find health benefits, navigation solutions and health and wellness tools.

Personify Health plans to boost its investments in technology including artificial intelligence and automation to enhance the user experience building off Virgin Pulse's high engagement levels, Michalak noted.

"Virgin Pulse generates a 51% engagement rate on our platform. We're looking at how do we continue to drive that level of engagement but across a broader set of capabilities. Knitting together that capability set in a single consumer experience is one of our biggest investments we'll make over the next few months," he said, noting that the company will launch a fully integrated platform by January 2025.

The company is using generative AI and automation for chat functions as part of its member services and taps into machine learning to develop predictive models that "nudge" members to take the next-best health action, according to executives.

Past the near-term horizon, there could be opportunities for more M&A, he noted. "Because we built a very strong platform, one of the best in the industry, it enables us to plug and play other capabilities into that platform. As we continue to play out our strategy, there probably will be areas that we feel like are areas to grow into, predominantly through acquisition rather than organic investment," he said.

The company will be transitioning to the Personify Health name and brand over the coming months, executives said. Members of its employer clients will continue to use the Virgin Pulse and HealthComp solutions throughout 2024.