When Oz Merchant returned to the States from Holland last year after living abroad for several years, he and his wife began the process of finding their daughter a new pediatrician as part of settling in.
He realized you can search Yelp or TripAdvisor endlessly for reviews of restaurants to find the perfect place to eat. But when it comes to healthcare, you’re often left relying on the references of friends or other doctors, or selecting a health provider by simple chance.
Merchant said he and his wife had the primary options of asking a Facebook group for recommendations or soliciting their friends and neighbors.
“Really, that’s the options we have in almost 2019?” Merchant recalled thinking. “That’s what kind of spawned the idea. I was like, why is there not something dedicated for healthcare even though there is for everything else?”
That’s why Merchant, a veteran of the software space including stints at Triangle-based ShareFile and Samanage, founded Wellistic at the close of 2018. Raleigh-based Wellistic creates a healthcare community with listings and reviews for doctors, dentists, therapists, acupuncturists, chiropractors and health coaches all in one place. Currently, the site has over a million listings.
By allowing members to message each other and search for providers by location, specialty and condition, Wellistic will expose people to many more providers than they realize are available, Merchant said. For example, a user can find a chiropractor who can help relieve sinus pressure. This is of one of Wellistic’s main goals: to educate people about the full range of health and wellness options from traditional medicine to so-called alternative approaches.
The 10-month-old startup also offers corporate wellness programs where an organization’s employees can find providers with discounted rates of 10-50%.
“There’s a shift that’s happening in overall healthcare,” Merchant said. “There’s a push toward people wanting to take ownership over their own health, and to do that effectively they really need more education.”
Focus On User Experience
When launching his wellness community, Merchant knew he didn’t want to build a platform full of ads. Instead, providers pay to be listed on the platform depending on the tier or amount of information they want displayed. Other partners such as gyms, health restaurants or yoga studios can pay to be featured on Wellistic as well, which differs from the traditional web page full of popups that Merchant was avoiding.
“How do I improve that experience so that it’s focused on health,” Merchant said, “and when I go through it I’m not being bombarded with all these different popups? The user experience is crucial.”
Often, people looking for a new healthcare provider go to Google or Yelp for reviews. But relying on the word of strangers does not have to be how members use Wellistic. The reviews of first connections, or people you know, and second connections—people your friends know—can be used to help members develop their own opinion on a provider, says Kristen Luft, Wellistic’s Marketing Specialist.
“We also want to become a community that people go to first,” Luft said. “I think people like to go to people that they trust. With our platform, we’re able to create something that people are able to go to without reaching out to a friend offline. They can do it all on our platform.”
Wellistic, which is completely bootstrapped, mostly serves North Carolina at the moment, from the Triangle to Charlotte. Merchant said he hopes to continue growing across the state, the Southeast and the entire country.
“The idea in this is, you take a Yelp or TripAdviser,” Merchant said, “and this is a niche around healthcare for that audience.”