CHICAGO (August 16, 2021) -- Modern Healthcare has named Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, co-founder and CEO of Zing Health, as one of its Top 25 Innovators for 2021. The magazine noted Zing Health’s “robust data program” to direct members of the Medicare Advantage plan toward preventive care and away from the emergency room.
Dr. Whitaker was one of eight healthcare professionals cited for advancing population health. Few entrepreneurs are focused on building high-touch, tech-forward companies to address social determinants of health in underserved communities.
“Most health plans run away from the underserved because they believe Black and Brown members are the costliest to serve. But at Zing Health we’re running towards them,” Dr. Whitaker noted. “I am grateful to Modern Healthcare for recognizing Zing Health’s tech-enabled community care model.”
Medicare Advantage Plan Takes Preventive Approach
Dr. Whitaker’s healthcare innovation reaches underserved communities through Zing Health’s Medicare Advantage plans, which offer benefits not covered by traditional Medicare. More than 80 percent of Zing Health members are Black or Latinx. Every member’s care team includes a medical provider, nurse, behavioral health specialist, community health worker, and access to a 24-hour nurse advice line and video telehealth services.
The community care team works with members to create a longitudinal electronic health record and individual treatment plans. Risk assessment and claims data help the team follow through to make sure members are getting the right care at the right time. “Zing was able to connect with all of its members in 2021 to verify COVID-19 vaccination status and address social determinants that may have limited access to vaccines,” the magazine noted.
"There’s never been a more urgent time for the industry to experiment with innovations that can reshape how care is delivered. The members of this year’s class of Top 25 Innovators have introduced ideas that engage consumers in new ways, lower healthcare costs and take unique approaches to managing population health,” said Aurora Aguilar, editor of Modern Healthcare. “We congratulate this class of honorees and look forward to following their careers.”
The Modern Healthcare Top 25 Innovators award, drawn from more than 200 nominations, marks Dr. Whitaker’s continued community care leadership as a medical practitioner. His past public and private population health roles include director of the Illinois Department of Public Health and executive vice president, strategic affiliations & associate dean for community-based research at the University of Chicago Medical Center.
Dr. Whitaker’s conviction that insurers have neglected communities of color led him to found Zing Health in 2019 with Dr. Ken Alleyne, a Black orthopedic surgeon.
Community Organizer’s Tactics Raise Population Health
As a Black founder and mentor, Dr. Whitaker adopted a community organizing model to attract service providers, and team members through partnerships with faith-based organizations, community organizations, consulates and local political entities. Zing Health partnered with like-minded primary care providers such as Oak Street Health and works closely with the Chicago area’s consortium of community clinics.
Dr. Whitaker also makes Zing Health a training ground for minority healthcare executives to rise to positions of influence. Two former Cook County health commissioners, Dr. Terry Mason and Dr. Stephen Martin, are on the Zing Health team.
Zing Health is expanding its Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan service area and is in the process of acquiring Lasso Healthcare Insurance Co., a move that will allow Zing Health to expand into 32 additional states and Washington, D.C. While Zing has focused on diverse, underserved communities in urban areas, Lasso has focused on the same market in rural areas. This will allow Zing Health to scale and adapt its approach quickly and effectively.
Modern Healthcare’s complete ranking is featured in the Aug. 16 issue. Profiles of the honorees are available at modernhealthcare.com.