“We need to go beyond thinking about healthcare as something we tap into only when we’re facing a worst case scenario. Patients, clinicians and the healthcare industry as a whole will greatly benefit from a more holistic focus on taking care of our whole selves — not just going to the doctor when it’s an emergency or unavoidable.”
As a part of my interview series with leaders in healthcare, I had the pleasure to interview, Michelle Davey, CEO and co-founder of Enzyme Health. As CEO and co-founder of Enzyme Health, Michelle Davey is on a mission to change the way healthcare works. Combining her love of the healthcare industry, passion for startups and knack for cultivating talented teams, Michelle was destined to build the next generation of clinical careers.
She knows that digital health will provide more accessibility and better outcomes than traditional in-person healthcare — a realization that came years before Enzyme Health when Michelle experienced her own childhood health issues. Growing up in a small Texas town with just one family doctor, she had an autoimmune disease that went undiagnosed for 10 years. Fast forward to today, Michelle is helping the industry’s most innovative digital health companies change this status quo.
Founded in 2018, Michelle and her team created Enzyme Health to bring talented clinicians and the most innovative digital health companies together. They’re making the gig economy work for healthcare, giving clinicians career flexibility and autonomy right at their fingertips. They’re also providing digital health companies a first-of-its-kind virtual network of talented, happy clinicians, eliminating the time-intensive need to hire and onboard. With Enzyme Health, industry-defining and game-changing companies can scale nationwide in an instant.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Enzyme Health is changing the way healthcare works, but I’ve been speaking on reimagining the way we work as a collective society since 2014.
At the time, I was working at an innovative delivery startup in Austin, TX called Favor. I was in the midst of helping the company harness the power of the growing gig economy, wearing many hats across recruiting, HR, culture and operations.
It wasn’t until I began working at a telehealth platform that I realized what would make the biggest impact to the healthcare industry — changing how clinicians work. I saw first-hand the staggering numbers of burned out physicians who wanted more career flexibility and balance, but didn’t have the resources. I started dreaming of the transformation we could make in creating a new way to work for the healthcare industry, and Enzyme was born.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
There are so many inspiring and interesting stories from my journey in building Enzyme, but those I have from connecting 1:1 with clinicians stand out the most. There is one I’ll remember forever, because it encompassed everything we set out to build at the company.
In the early days of Enzyme, I was on the front lines of recruitment and interacting with hundreds of clinicians. One of the very first questions I’d ask is “why did you become a clinician.” During one call with a leading emergency medicine physician her answer was so powerful. She said wanted to be a doctor to help people in their darkest hours. She knew that if she could have a hand in saving a life, she’d followed the right path. Shortly after finishing, she began to cry. She talked to me about how she’d forgotten her own why. She also said that today, she might not make the same sacrifices again. She now knew what would be given up in exchange for building this career — mostly time with her family (she’d just missed her daughter’s dance recital).
She was one of the first doctors who we helped find a job in telehealth, and now she works from home several days a week. She’s reinvigorated her passion for helping people and no longer has to sacrifice her family for a career. I knew at that moment we were doing the right thing at Enzyme. She was a testament to the impact we could make in the healthcare system.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This story is funny in hindsight, but it wasn’t so funny at the time. When we were first getting started, we decided to use contracted outsourced developers to build our minimum viable product. The developers we hired had seemingly worked on similar projects and were willing to cut us a deal.
The week we launched, we were attending an important industry event, meeting with our first partners, investors, and potential clients. I was expecting our app to be ready in the morning on our first day there. I excitedly woke up early to check the site. To my surprise, a bulk frozen chicken ordering app appeared on our website. Frantically, I had one of my co-founders + CPO work with the developers during my first partner meeting. After some back and forth, the website went completely down before my next meeting, which was with our first (and biggest) client. We had no working product to show, so I went in with a slide deck and a dream. We ended up closing that deal weeks later.
And that’s the story of our short-lived “pivot” to a frozen chicken ordering app. The lesson learned, though, was so important. Even during the early days when money is tight, cheaper is not always better. The experience ended up costing us a lot more than the discount. Simultaneously, the experience was evidence to both our passion and vision for the future of our industry. Even without a working product to showcase, clients saw where we were going and wanted to be a part of it.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Enzyme is unique because we’re really concentrating on serving clinicians. So many talk about innovation in the healthcare industry, but before us, no one was focused on the people who make the system work — the clinicians.
We’re dedicated to changing the narrative around doctors and other clinicians. As part of this, we create weekly content specifically directed towards clinicians to help them navigate their careers. We cover everything from how to find flexible work, tips on setting up a home office, pay for different roles and more.
I touched on this in one of the previous questions, but before we started Enzyme, my co-founders and I spoke with hundreds of clinicians. We kept hearing over and over that everyone wanted more career flexibility, autonomy and balance, but there just weren’t any resources to make that a reality. Today, I’m honored that we can be that resource, because we know that happier clinicians mean healthier patients.
What advice would you give to other healthcare leaders to help their team to thrive?
Healthcare is an industry that’s historically been very difficult to navigate. There are regulations at the state and federal levels, countless acronyms and so many moving parts. My advice to leaders, especially those who don’t come from a healthcare background, is to find trusted advisors. My advisors have helped me maneuver this dynamic industry. Having them at my side helps me make informed leadership decisions, ultimately helping my team and many of the companies we work with thrive.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this study cited by Newsweek, the US healthcare system is ranked as the worst among high income nations. This seems shocking. Can you share with us 3–5 reasons why you think the US is ranked so poorly?
The top 3 reasons I believe our healthcare system is one of the worst among high-income nations are:
● High cost
● Limited accessibility
● Clinician burnout
I know that the growth of the digital health industry can and will play an integral role in creating meaningful change and long-term solutions to these problems. Digital health solutions provide more accessibility and affordability, while offering better patient outcomes and more career mobility for clinicians.
You are a “healthcare insider”. If you had the power to make a change, can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
Absolutely! Building on my answer to the previous question:
Provide better access to quality care and remove the location barriers that prevent this. This is an area where I am incredibly passionate, and it’s one of the reasons I jumped with both feet into the healthcare industry. Growing up, I had an autoimmune disease that went undiagnosed for years because the small town I lived in just had one family doctor. Unfortunately, my story isn’t uncommon, and so many others across the U.S. have had a similar experience.
Something important to note is the emphasis on quality care and digital health’s role in providing that. In the past, doctors who self-selected into telehealth jobs often did so because, for one reason or another, it was the only job they could get. At Enzyme, we’re changing that, putting a focus on finding the most talented clinicians and equipping them with the resources and tools they need to deliver the highest quality care for patients.
Remedy clinician burnout. Burnout itself is a symptom of a broken healthcare system. Clinicians have so many varying and conflicted duties — ranging from their loyalty to patients, to requirements from employers and insurance companies to maintaining self-integrity. I believe that forcing clinicians to adhere to these expectations while maintaining impeccable quality, care and attention to detail will cause our healthcare system to break beyond repair.
Physicians are our canaries in the healthcare “coal mines.” They’re killing themselves at alarming rates — the highest of any profession. If that isn’t a signal that something is seriously wrong with the system, what is? Clinician burnout is bad for everyone. If the people in charge of our health aren’t healthy themselves, something needs to change.
Break down cost barriers for entering the medical profession. In the U.S., we’re facing a critical shortage of physicians. By 2030, it’s estimated we’ll have a shortage of 120,000 physicians. Yet, we’re continuing to put up more barriers than ever for those who are interested in becoming a doctor.
First and foremost, the cost of education has spiraled out of control. Medical school yields an average of $183,000 in student loan debt. Universities like NYU have made huge strides in changing this by making medical school free to those in their program.
Further, primary care physicians with specialties like general internal medicine, family practice and pediatrics earn substantially less than specialists. Due to this disparity in pay, we see fewer physicians going into these areas, making it even more difficult for patients to find and access care.
If we remove education cost as a barrier, we’ll see more people becoming physicians. Potentially without crippling student loan debt, we’ll also see individuals choose specialties that can actually help patients and provide the most care instead of choosing one that just pays better.
Emphasize total healthcare. We need to go beyond thinking about healthcare as something we tap into only when we’re facing a worst case scenario. Patients, clinicians and the healthcare industry as a whole will greatly benefit from a more holistic focus on taking care of our whole selves — not just going to the doctor when it’s an emergency or unavoidable.
As part of this, we need to include a focus on mental health, functional medicine, diet, nutrition and nontraditional alternatives. Companies like Parsley Health are on the forefront of this, helping patients take a more proactive and consistent approach on total healthcare.
Make costs radically transparent. Healthcare is one of the only industries where we, as consumers, are completely unable to make informed decisions based on price and quality. I can make a more informed decision about buying a car than I can in choosing a healthcare provider and treatment plan.
The unexpected costs of healthcare completely devastate families. Medical costs are the number one reason for filing bankruptcy in the U.S.
Some suggest we should make hospitals publicly share their costs, but I believe that’s just a first step. We ultimately need to take cost transparency further so hospitals and healthcare organizations are faced with consumer demand for competitive pricing.
Ok, its very nice to suggest changes, but what concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?
That are definitely actions that each and every one of us can take to make a significant impact in changing our healthcare system.
a) At the individual level, the most impactful thing you can do is participate in your local government. Reach out to your representatives and make your voice and opinions heard. True changes to healthcare regulations often only come from the officials in charge.
b) Corporations can take a stance on accessible care by making total healthcare a core value of the company. This means offering employees not just benefits like health insurance, but access to digital health platforms and mental health resources, too.
c) Communities can advocate for better quality and more accessible care from their providers, which will ultimately benefit everyone. In particular, digital health options are a tremendous asset to those living in a rural community with fewer care options than an urban area. With our current technology, there isn’t any reason people should go without care just because of their location. Community members can ask for these resources at their local clinics, hospitals and doctor’s offices.
d) There are several types of leaders who can help change our healthcare system — from company CEOs like myself to our elected officials. The most significant action our leaders can take is recognizing the influence they have and actually using it to set an example and effect change. Our leaders can and should be the first to show us that we can do better for the people in this country. This could mean using their platforms to speak up about healthcare issues, offering affordable care options to all employees, voting with their dollars or leading a team to bring a new solution or vision for the future of healthcare to life.
As a mental health professional myself, I’m particularly interested in the interplay between the general healthcare system and the mental health system. Right now we have two parallel tracks mental/behavioral health and general health. What are your thoughts about this status quo? What would you suggest to improve this?
This is one of the most devastating status quo’s in the industry right now. Building on my previous point about total healthcare, we need to focus on a patient’s complete care. This includes a combination of general health and mental health.
We need to get to a place where mental health is an integrated part of a patient’s overarching health. One way we could help facilitate this is creating a seamless loop for mental health providers and general healthcare providers to collaborate on a patient’s care program.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
Personally, I think we’re very lucky to live in the U.S. with the best-trained healthcare providers in the world. However, the qualities of an excellent healthcare provider go beyond their training. They are the ones who truly want to help the patients who need it. They also have soft skills that are such an important part of the overall patient experience. We call this “webside manner” in telehealth.
Ultimately, the healthcare providers who can pair their soft skills with data-driven decision making rise to the top as the best of the best.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I’ve always loved this quote by Albert Einstein: “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
It’s no secret that our healthcare system is broken, but we won’t fix it or change it while working within the same parameters or with the same ideas that built it. We have to completely reimagine what healthcare in this country looks like. Only in doing this, will we truly change the way healthcare works.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We just launched our Enzyme Health On Demand™ platform. It’s built around a virtual network called the Enzyme Care Team™️, which features the top clinicians who specialize in telehealth. We’re boosting job satisfaction for clinicians while also giving telehealth organizations a flexible way to rapidly scale.
We realized that flexibility was the key to moving our industry forward in a meaningful way — for both clinicians and healthcare organizations. We’re giving clinicians freedom and flexibility in their careers through access to patient consults that are tailored to their schedules. At the same time, digital health organizations have a low-risk, turnkey solution that eliminates one of the most common barriers they have for growth — hiring and on-boarding a clinical team. By tapping into a reliable network of motivated, talented clinicians, healthcare companies can leverage us to schedule and route clinical talent — all without ever having to hire a provider directly.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better healthcare leader? Can you explain why you like them?
One of the best things a healthcare leader can do is take knowledge and insights from outside the industry and reimagine them in a way that works for healthcare. A few of my favorite “outside” resources include:
● Reid Hoffman’s “Master of Scale” is one of the best podcasts I’ve listened to. Not only does Reid himself have an impressive background, and one that I admire, but every single episode features great insights from inspiring leaders like Ariana Huffington and Caterina Fake.
● My team knows that I love Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In book. It’s insightful not just for female leaders, but for anyone who wants to lead a team from a place of passion and influence.
● My last and one of my most invaluable resources have been mentors. I’m a passionate learner and a people person, so finding time with other entrepreneurs has been critical to my success as a leader. I’ll share my top one or two problems or areas where I need advice and gain as many opinions as I can from trusted mentors. With insights in hand, I’m always able to make an educated decision and find the best path forward.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
What a great question. I’ve always wanted to start a movement. One I’m very passionate about is a national Mental Health Day. Not a faux holiday like “national grilled cheese day”, but a dedicated day in which everyone has time to reflect and take care of themselves mentally. This passion was further fueled by a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia. For New Year’s, the entire country turns off the power (besides hospitals) and everyone observes a day of silence. We all could use at least one day of that.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Readers can connect with me personally on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
About the Author:
Originally from Israel, Limor Weinstein has been anorexic and bulimic, a “nanny spy” to the rich and famous and a Commander in the Israeli Army. Her personal recovery from an eating disorder led her to commit herself to a life of helping others, and along the way she picked up two Master’s Degrees in Psychology from Columbia University and City College as well as a Post-Graduate Certificate in Eating Disorder Treatment from the Institute for Contemporary Psychotherapy.
Upon settling in New York, Limor quickly became known as the “go to” person for families struggling with mental health issues, in part because her openness about her own mental health challenges paved the way for open exchanges. She understood the difficulties many have in finding the right treatment, as well as the stigma that remains so prevalent towards those who are struggling with mental health issues. She realized that most families are quietly struggling with a problem they’re not comfortable talking about, and that discomfort makes it much less likely that they will get the help they need for their loved ones. She discovered that being open and honest about her own mental health challenges took the fear out of the conversations. Her mission became to research and guide those families to the highest-quality treatment available. Helping others became part of her DNA, as has a commitment to supporting and assisting organizations that perform research and treatment in the mental health arena.
After years of helping families by helping connect them to the right treatment and wellness services, Limor realized that the only way to ensure that they are receiving appropriate, coordinated and evidence-based care would be to stay in control of the entire treatment process. That realization led her to create Bespoke Wellness Partners, which employs over 100 of the best clinicians and wellness providers in New York and provides confidential treatment and wellness services throughout the city. Bespoke has built its reputation on strong relationships, personalized, confidential service and a commitment to ensuring that all clients find the right treatment for their particular issues.
In addition to her role at Bespoke Wellness Partners, Limor is the Co-Chair of the Academy of Eating Disorders. She lives with her husband, three daughters and their dog Rex in Manhattan.
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