Five Questions With: Dr. Jeffrey Jacques

Dr. Jeffrey Jacques is the new chief medical officer of Virgin Pulse Inc. Former CVS Health Corp. and Aetna Inc. clinical leader, in his new role Jacques will advance the company’s clinical strategy, work with product and commercial teams, and lead the company’s Science Advisory Board.

PBN: How do you think your leadership experience at CVS Health/Aetna will guide your new role at Virgin Pulse?

JACQUES: The work I was doing during my time with CVS Health/Aetna was heavily influenced by my experience building population health programs and by what was going on in my personal life. I had already made the move from being a practicing internal medicine physician to the business world, embracing my entrepreneurial side. My eldest son was born in 2010 and was very sick that first year – a third of that year was spent in the intensive care unit. It was terrifying.

This experience motivated me to build a business to support parents of preemies, and that was NeoCare, within Aetna’s incubator program. It was designed to digitally connect human neonatal intensive care unit expertise to parents in the moments that mattered. I wanted to help them focus on their own well-being, as well as their babies’ health; enable them to be an active part of the care team; and leverage resources for future situations versus returning to the emergency room for minor ailments such as a fever, which is scary in an infant. I’m proud to say NeoCare grew to cover 3.5 million lives under Aetna.

- Advertisement -

Unfortunately, I did have another family health experience that impacted my work. My father was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2014. I spent nine months with him as he struggled with cancer, and this experience – along with that of my son’s – made it clear to me that we caregivers need better products and services to support us and our loved ones. I saw a real need for solutions that would help create long-term plans that support the quality of life and well-being of both the caregiver and the care recipient.

These experiences and the work I did with Aetna’s NeoCare is what led to creating CareTribe. I applied all the lessons I learned in building advanced clinical analytics, population health management platforms, and NICU parent digital health support to redefine the caregiver support space. CareTribe was acquired by Cleo last year, and now I’m excited to bring these experiences to Virgin Pulse. Ultimately, we want our members and our clients to benefit from my expertise and focus on supporting them across the health and well-being spectrum: preventatively, episodically and chronically.

PBN: What are your responsibilities as chief medical officer at Virgin Pulse?

JACQUES: One of the big things I’m focused on at Virgin Pulse is our clients, making sure we’re focused on delivering return on investment and value on investment – that means, we’re driving better health outcomes for their people, as well as business and financial benefits for their company.

We have an impressive footprint and ability to scale, so it’s critical that we focus on our current clients – and future clients – and ensure we’re meeting their needs and anticipating what comes next. Doing this also means that I’m taking a lead role in advancing our clinical strategy, providing insight and guidance to product and commercial teams on how we can evolve our platform and offerings to serve the market.

I am also leading our Science Advisory Board, which helps ensure that our technology and the experiences it supports are rooted in the most relevant scientific evidence and best practices.

PBN: What is the future of digital health? How was it reshaped and impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

JACQUES: Digital health has really come into its own these last two to three years, as the pandemic required thinking about engaging with the care delivery system differently. Now that so many of us have gotten used to engaging with our health and well-being providers and experts via mobile or desktop applications, I expect that digital health will continue to grow and become further incorporated into clinical experiences and the clinical practice of medicine. It’s a way to make health care more convenient and cost-effective – something that benefits patients and the industry.

I anticipate digital health playing a big role in primary care and home-based care, bringing greater access to patients and taking the pressure off in-person settings. This will be accomplished through greater use of digital innovations such as remote patient monitoring and telehealth.

Now, the onus is on those of us in the field to continue making digital health engagements high value and worthwhile to the user.

PBN: One of Virgin Pulse’s missions is bringing together technology and human connection. What does this look like in your work?

JACQUES: When I think about clinical experiences and people navigating the trifecta of their own well-being, their health care benefits and the care delivery system – it’s confusing, and typically something people only do if they have to. People are generally reticent to make any changes – and have nowhere to turn if they run into complexities.

Digital health technology can be used in a way that is very personal and directive around the specific individual in their own situation and creating simplicity, not complexity. Technology can help people get answers, get care for themselves and support them as they advocate for their own well-being.

But it is also important to have experts available to advocate for patients and provide compassion – health journeys are too important and too complex to do on your own. The criticality of building a scalable capability off the human experience that folks can consume when needed or wanted but that is also proactive to engage, educate and support people – that is powerful.

We don’t get a user manual for our well-being. We can’t get outcomes on our own. Combining human knowledge with support from technology creates a force multiplier for people and is a significant next step in how they experience health care. This approach is at the heart of Virgin Pulse’s approach to serving members – providing them with motivating, easy ways to get the guidance they need, whether it’s from a program in the app or a click to connect to a live expert. I’m really excited to look at using technology to leverage human expertise and make it more predictive.

PBN: The idea of workplace well-being and health has changed a lot in the last three years. What lessons from the pandemic should employers keep in mind going forward?

JACQUES: COVID-19 changed a lot about how work gets done, but the issue of burnout and work-driven stress has been exacerbated by the pandemic. It’s clear that people are looking for employers that support a healthy work-life balance and provide meaningful health benefits. A recent study by MetLife indicated that 72% of employees rank work-life management benefits within their top five desired benefits. Additionally, over 87% of prospective employees consider a company’s health and well-being benefits when choosing an employer.

The relationship between well-being and work is vital because how people experience work influences their lives outside of work, and overall well-being influences life at work. Supporting employees’ total well-being helps them be more engaged and productive, which impacts company culture, reduces attrition and improves the bottom line. This includes providing remote work options, an inclusive work environment, robust health benefits and a well-being program that provides support, guidance and connection. It’s important that employers heed these lessons and don’t revert to pre-pandemic approaches.

Claudia Chiappa is a PBN staff writer. You may contact her at Chiappa@PBN.com.