Unlike other industries in the US, Healthcare is an industry where women make up 80% of all healthcare buying and usage decisions in their household. In fact, women also account for over 70% of the healthcare workforce. Yet, in what is perceived as a woman-dominated industry, women only make up 30% of C-suite executives and 13% of CEOs. So, what’s really the cause behind the issue of gender diversification in US healthcare leadership?

Well, meet Co-founder and CEO of Virtual Health Partners, Jillian Bridgette Cohen, a woman determined to be in the 13% of female CEO’s within the healthcare industry, as she shares her story here with Grit Daily.

Grit Daily: You had your own interesting ventures before Virtual Health Partners. Share those.

Jillian Bridgette Cohen sees the number “13” in a different light.

Jillian Bridgette Cohen: I spent fifteen years in sales and sales leadership roles in the medical device industry, with a focus in surgical and non-invasive weight loss and gastroenterology, working for Johnson & Johnson, Novare, ElectroCore, and Apollo Endosurgery. During that time, I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time in the operating room (OR) observing weight loss, open heart, spine, and orthopedic surgeries.

Though I loved being in the OR, probably my most interesting venture before starting Virtual Health Partners (VHP) was during my time as Director of Sales and Business Development at ElectroCore. In that role, I was responsible for growth in Europe and Asia, spending 80% of my time overseas, meeting with potential business partners and helping with investment efforts. It was an eye-opening experience that shaped my understanding of diversity and my appreciation for the beauty of different cultures.

I will never forget one particular trip to Indonesia where my colleague and I had a business meeting on the golf course— it was 112 degrees, 100% humidity, and I was the only woman on the course.

GD: For the uninitiated, what is the “virtual health market?”

JBC: The virtual health market encompasses the growing demand to be able to manage your physical and emotional well-being from anywhere, at any time.

Wherever you are, if you take a look around, 90% of people near you will have a phone in their hand, laptop in front of their face, or Apple watch on their wrist. Technology has become integrated into our daily lives, and the latest healthcare trends mirror this societal shift. Through digital platforms, healthcare can come to you, when and where you want it, from the comfort of home and convenience of the internet. What we have built at Virtual Health Partners is a virtual solution to support the three most fundamental aspects of well-being: nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle modification.

GD: How did you spot this “void” in the market?

JBC: I originally started Virtual Health Partners to provide a turnkey solution to support patients who underwent weight-loss procedures. While working at Novare and Apollo, I sold devices for Lap-Band surgery, which at the time was the number one weight loss surgery in the world. The Lap-Band is a very efficacious weight loss procedure, as are gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy, through which patients can see remarkable weight loss.

However, the more time I spent in this field, the more it became apparent that you can give patients a “tool” or procedure to get them started, but they need a full toolbox of resources and support to succeed long-term. This toolbox needed to go beyond the brick and mortar doctor’s office and be accessible throughout their day-to-day lives. Patients needed a combination of nutrition, lifestyle modification, and fitness support all in one place, accessible on-the-go, at hours that fit their schedule.

We built a solution, and we had a lot of excitement from weight loss providers and patients. Then, we started to get inquiries from other departments of the hospitals we worked with – orthopedics, cardiology, and oncology providers were calling our team and saying, “Can we use this for our patients too?” What we quickly realized is that nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle modification aren’t just tools needed by weight-loss patients, but tools needed by everyone.

Nutrition is multifaceted and can have a significant impact on our health, both with regards to disease prevention and chronic disease management. As a result of this demand, VHP now has partnerships in eight different verticals including fitness, oncology, fertility, aesthetics, cosmetic surgery, gastroenterology, orthopedics, and weight loss, and we are constantly expanding further.

GD: What are VHP’s AI capabilities, specifically? How does that all work?

JBC: Traditional AI collects a user’s actions and uses machine learning to predict what future  information a user may want, leading to specific recommendations around these predictions. For instance, if a user searches for a recipe involving chicken, that user will be retargeted with chicken recipes in the future more than a user who only selects vegetarian options.

At VHP, our approach to AI goes beyond users’ actions and seeks to understand their mindset, goals, and preferences in a much more holistic way—predicting behavior based not just on actual behaviors but also on a user’s personal insights. By combining the power of AI with an interactive wellness personality survey that users can retake throughout their journey, we are able to personalize each user’s experience on the platform to give them even better support as they work towards reaching their goals.

GD: What explains womens’ dominance in making healthcare decisions at the household level?

JBC: As a new mom to a four -week-old little girl, I can tell you that the healthcare world is not easy to navigate. There are lots of details— doctor’s appointments, insurance paperwork, vaccines, medications, and it is a huge challenge to keep it all straight. Whether a family’s healthcare decisions are handled by the mom or the dad, I think what is most important is to be an educated consumer and advocate for yourself and your family.  

GD: What’s one conventional wisdom about healthcare buying that’s just plain wrong? 

JBC: Cheaper is not always better, and often the cheap option actually ends up being the most expensive. Healthcare is not the place where you want to cut corners or look for a deal. Dr. Grant Stevens of Marina Plastic Surgery taught me a lot about this as it relates to cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. There are a lot of options out there –  going with the cheapest option just because of price point is not a good idea.

Doing research on where to find the best outcomes you can achieve and those that have a lot of experience can play a key role in your overall health and success.