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Affordable Care Act killed their first business idea, but inspired a new one

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From left, Bala Jayaraman, Clark Lagemann, David Goldstein and Dan Sorkin. Their MyHint tool will be aimed at the small-business market.
From left, Bala Jayaraman, Clark Lagemann, David Goldstein and Dan Sorkin. Their MyHint tool will be aimed at the small-business market. - ()

Obamacare killed the first business idea David Goldstein and Clark Lagemann had.

The concept was to use technology to help patients without insurance find quality, affordable health care. Lagemann was enough of a believer to turn down a promotion and a move to Minneapolis to embark on the startup. Goldstein took the leap with his second child on the way.

Then the Affordable Care Act came and stayed, and promised to increase access to care across the board — sucking the life out of their big idea.

But the pair, both Rutgers grads, doesn't hold a grudge against the legislation many are quick to hate, as it gave birth to a new idea — one that works with the ACA instead of against it.

On Oct. 1 — the day of the new health insurance marketplace — the pair will launch MyHint, a product they are betting will help small businesses save money and raise producitivity under the new health care regulations.

While the ACA is about improving access to health care, so people are covered when illness strikes, MyHint is an online tool focused on making those illnesses fewer and farther between.

"It helps somebody get on that path of health and well-being," said Goldstein, CEO of Health Options Worldwide. "We kind of think that's the backbone."

Lagemann agreed.

"It's the perfect time for this platform to be used by individuals to just help them manage their own health," he said.

"No one wants to be fat and out of shape," he added. "But the problem is that there's so much information online that people are overwhelmed, and no one takes action."

So Lagemann and Goldstein — along with their chief technology officer, Balaji Jayaraman, and their analyst, Dan Sorkin — drilled that information down to create a simple system that nudges people into activities that will have a positive effect on their overall health.

Users can log into the MyHint website — the team is planning an app for 2014 — and fill out a quick, 25-question form that collects some key health data.

The system analyzes that data, measuring it against the Framingham Heart Study and guidelines from the American Diabetes Association, and churns out a "health age" for a user, as well as the likelihood that user will develop heart disease or diabetes in the next 10 years.

Based on that profile, the system then tasks users with completing activities that promote health and wellness. For a woman over 40, that could include an annual mammogram. For someone who is overweight, it could be as simple as increasing physical activity, Lagemann said.

Of course listing the wellness tasks is only half the battle. It's also about spurring people into action. To that end, the team has created four different "coaches" who will push you — via reminders and persistent text messages — to get that dental cleaning or prostate screening, Lagemann said.

Coach Ted is the aggressive one, he said. Kate is more bubbly. Greg is sophisticated. And Jillian is understanding, the professional "mom" of the group, Lagemann said.

"We're seeing that there's so many people looking for solutions," he said. MyHint is "a really unique way of approaching health care."

MyHint will be available for the average Joe, but the target market is businesses, especially — or at least at first — small businesses.

For them, employees forced to miss days on end because of sickness can be devastating to productivity. It's a problem Health Options Worldwide would face, too.

"If Bala goes out sick, it's like the world ended for us," Lagemann said.

The program would also provide companies with HIPAA-compliant data they can use to further promote wellness, Lagemann said. For instance, they won't know which employees are at risk for diabetes, but will get an overall percentage. That might prompt the company to bring in a representative from the American Diabetes Association, who can speak to that issue.

MyHint already has attracted a few key partnerships with organizations in New Jersey. Mike Kerwin, president of the Somerset County Business Partnership, said he was impressed by what MyHint is offering and will roll it out to the partnership's member businesses in November.

"This proposal was the best thing we've seen out there that's actually an easy-to-use guide that would be appropriate for smaller and medium-sized businesses," Kerwin said.

Kerwin said most of the partnership's larger employers have solid wellness programs in place. But small and midsized businesses lack those resources.

"This approach seemed to make sense," Kerwin said. "If you run a small or medium-sized business, it can't be complicated."

E-mail to: maryj@njbiz.com
On Twitter: @mjohns422

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