Beyond the Pitch
Ardina: Healthcare Benefits You Can Actually Afford to Use
Shaun Young, founder of Ardina, has a passion for making healthcare and health insurance easier for young people and families.
“I spent seven years in the retail health division at Wal-Mart leading healthcare innovation. We were laser focused on improving access to affordable healthcare,” said Young, a licensed pharmacist.
“I lived and breathed it because I believe that the more we can empower consumers to take control of their own healthcare, the better healthcare will become,” he said.
Most recently, Young was vice president of consumer health at Cardinal Health. He left that position late last year to carry his passion into the marketplace.
Cardinal Health gave him a vote of confidence by investing in Ardina.
“I’ve always had this itch that I needed to scratch. If I hadn’t done this, I would have had regret,” Young said. “I left Cardinal and now they are a strategic investor.”
The Entrepreneur’s Path
Ardina recently moved into the Rev1 accelerator. The story of the company’s progress since then reads like a true fable of entrepreneurship 1-2-3-4.
1. Understand the real-time dynamics of the market you hope to serve.
When a market is being pressured from all sides and undergoing seismic changes like healthcare is in the US today, opportunities open up for new businesses.
Young, who has two decades of healthcare experience, and Ardina’s co-founder Stephanie Hemmelgarn, who is a millennial consumer marketer, have invested time and legwork to gain a deep awareness of their customers’ pain.
“Today healthcare is stacked against the little guy,” Young said. “For individuals, families, and small business owners, costs are rising twice as fast as income and profit. Many still can’t afford healthcare and are actually avoiding getting the healthcare they need.”
It’s not surprising, as the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) reports, that 36 percent of Americans under age 65 with private health plans are enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP).
“Health insurance is becoming more like car insurance,” said Young. “It’s moving more to catastrophic coverage, which means most of us never really use our health insurance.”
2. Match the solution to features that your target market wants, needs, and will pay for.
“Thanks to Concept Academy, we spent a lot of time listening to employers, human resources managers, insurance agents, non-profits, parents, college students and many more,” said Young.
“We found that our service resonates at the individual level, particularly with people who get their insurance plans through an insurance exchange,” he said. “With high annual deductibles, we help families and individuals stretch their out-of-pocket healthcare dollars.”
For $10 per month, Ardina subscribers receive free, unlimited 24/7 access to telemedicine services. Membership covers an entire family, including children who are in college and older parents living elsewhere.
“We are the first stop a parent can make when they have a basic healthcare need for their family,” Young said.
Subscribers can use Ardina’s telehealth services for non-emergency medical issues (for example, pink eye, urinary tract or respiratory infection, or sinus problems) and/or when subscribers need a short-term prescription.
Services and providers are available in English and Spanish via telephone or video chats. Ardina also offers a premium membership program ($20/month) with discounts on dental, vision, prescription, lab, and chiropractic services.
3. When your startup’s success depends on changing consumer behavior, get their attention and then explain your solution in terms that your target market already understands.
“What if you had healthcare benefits you could actually afford to use?” Hemmelgarn said.
This attention grabber hits the bullseye of consumer concerns—lowered cost and improved access.
Next, simply explain enough of what the solution delivers so that prospects are willing to give the service a try.
“Think of Ardina as an online retail clinic,” Young said. “The main difference is that it’s staffed by physicians 24/7 and you don’t have to leave home to talk to them.”
Young also describes Ardina as an “AAA” for healthcare. “You don’t use it until you need it,” he said, “like you don’t use AAA until your battery dies or you have a flat tire. But when you do need it, it’s always there.”
Ardina went live in August with both beta customers and subscribers. “The amazing thing is that everyone gets the concept,” Young said. “Once we get over the hump of awareness and someone gives us a try, there’s really strong satisfaction and loyalty.”
4. Leverage online marketing for consumer sales and strategic partners for additional distribution.
It’s easy for individuals to sign up at myardina.com. Members can cancel or upgrade their membership at any time. And every membership comes with a 30-day risk-free guarantee. Ardina is focusing its launch efforts on parents, who have demonstrated the greatest interest in Ardina.
“We conducted a lot of customer interviews prior to launch. New parents and parents of college students actually cried during the interviews. We knew then that Ardina can be a very powerful solution for both of these groups,” said Hemmelgarn.
To reach employers, Ardina is building relationships with insurance brokers to sell Ardina as part of their solution.
“Each year, employers are seeing double digit increases in their health insurance premiums. The only solution is to eliminate benefits or increase deductibles,” said Young. “With Ardina, employers are able to continue providing healthcare benefits and help employees manage rising out-of-pocket costs.”
Ardina benefits from Columbus’ backyard effect
“One of our first customers was a restaurant, and now that’s where I go to eat,” said Young.
“It’s been so valuable to talk to anyone and everyone about what we are doing,” he said. “We have had so many referrals from employers and individuals to others that can benefit from Ardina. There’s a whole network of service providers, too here in Columbus that have given us advice about how to be efficient as a startup. This is a great place to start a company.”
*As written in an email to Columbus Business First.
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