MATTER Startup Spotlight: Pillar
Moving health beyond a 10-minute visit
According to the National Library of Medicine and Mayo Clinic, health coaching is clinically proven to drive results, including reduced costs and improved health outcomes. MATTER members Jasmine Mansouri and Caroline Early, co-founders of Pillar, have built the leading board-certified health coach network in the U.S. and a white-labeled care management platform to enable the delivery and tracking of patient engagement. Read on to learn more about Jasmine and Caroline’s separate journeys that brought them together to create Pillar.
Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
MATTER: Tell me about Pillar’s solution.
Jasmine: Pillar is a B2B healthcare infrastructure company focused on enabling and scaling care management and coaching programs on behalf of digital health and healthcare partners. For a health system, this may be focused on embedding after-care support and protocol adherence programs for post-surgery patients. For digital health companies, Pillar often works with executives to scale their coaching team with curated vetting and placements, as well as with the care management functionality to enable patient engagement and effective tracking using our platform. We’ve seen coaching be deployed across use cases from chronic condition management to weight loss, fertility and menopause support programs.
MATTER: How did you come up with the idea for Pillar, and how did you bring it to life?
Caroline: It started while we were working as young executives at high growth startups and developed stress-related health problems as a result of our lifestyles in that environment. We experienced the limitations of multiple 10-minute primary care appointments, including the lack of attention to our lifestyle, nutrition and stress management.
While searching for qualified alternative care providers, we discovered the National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching certification and training requirements for certified health coaches. We were encouraged that the National Board of Medical Examiners had created national standards for the field in 2017, earmarking health coaches as the next wave of health professionals focused on care management and motivational interviewing to address that gap in healthcare for behavior change support - especially with patients at risk for chronic conditions. Further, given clinician staffing shortages coupled with the ongoing transition to value-based care, there is a need for an affordable provider to provide that care coordination and management support, while extending the reach of clinicians by taking on subclinical responsibilities.
That’s when Jasmine and I decided to found Pillar, which started as a health coach marketplace where we placed and staffed coaches with various partners. After expanding into managing coaching programs for multiple partners, we discovered the limitations of leveraging existing EHR infrastructure to power a longitudinal care journey - especially with respect to delivering integrated HIPAA compliant messaging and outbound calling solutions to those patients coupled with robust data & reporting.
Based on that need, we developed and launched an enterprise-grade care management platform focused on the relationship management, messaging and scheduling functionality required to engage patients over time - whether in a case management context or chronic condition program. Our platform is designed to be API-first to embed this journey in the member experience of our partners or enable white-labeled member journeys for enterprise organizations.
MATTER: What milestones have you reached along the way?
Caroline: Aside from bringing on additional partners, the biggest milestone for us was becoming SOC 2–certified in January 2023. It has helped us position Pillar as an integrated, enterprise-grade platform and expand the types of customers we serve to a broader set of consumer wellness and healthcare partners.
MATTER: Jasmine, what is your background, and how did it prepare you for Pillar?
Jasmine: Before Pillar, I established and led strategy at Forge, a fintech marketplace for private shares. I joined that company as employee #12 during a time of hyper-scale where we grew to over 150 employees and scaled to over a billion dollars in transaction volume. Forge recently went public.
When I started there, the secondary market was poorly understood and legally complex, making it hard to fundraise and land institutional partnerships. It was a really long sales cycle due to the education gap. Over time, that gap narrowed and the secondary market is now very well understood across institutional investors and late-stage companies. It was interesting to see the impact of education to expand the size of a market, and we have the same conviction about health coaching at Pillar - with healthcare also being a highly regulated industry and coaching a relatively new field within it. We’re constantly explaining to stakeholders about health coaching and even partnered with USF Public Health to publish research on the space given the lack of publicly available benchmarks as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’tyet recognize health coaching as a profession.
MATTER: How about you, Caroline?
Caroline: Before Pillar, I worked in consumer health as an early employee at L., an organic feminine care company. We scaled L. over the course of five years culminating with nationwide distribution across Target, Whole Foods and CVS and an acquisition by Procter and Gamble in 2019. Not only did we democratize access to organic feminine care through affordable pricing, we empowered women with education on the impact of ingredients in products they use over 10,000 times in their lifetime. This helped people who used tampons — and even those who didn’t — understand the importance and value of buying organic products that contain no rayon, chlorine-bleach and more, specifically within the context of feminine care.
At L., I witnessed the impact of a brand that engaged with their consumers in a way that was intelligent and thoughtful. Right now, one of the biggest challenges in healthcare is behavior change, and I’m excited to use my experience in consumer health, focusing on modernizing the patient experience to drive positive health outcomes for health and wellbeing.
MATTER: What have you learned along your journey?
Jasmine: We went through Y Combinator in Pillar’s early days, where it’s all about minimum viable product (MVP). We were encouraged to get out there, talk to as many customers as possible and release our product as quickly as possible. When we did that, we saw how high the standard is for a platform in healthcare given you’re dealing with patient safety and protected information. That’s why our SOC 2 certification is such an important milestone for us.
It’s been fascinating speaking with stakeholders at different health systems and digital health companies of various stages about their needs, informing our build as we become fully featured. We’re excited for 2023 because we spent the past year getting the necessary certifications and meeting enterpise requirements to leverage our platform.
MATTER: What value have you gained from your experience at MATTER?
Caroline: MATTER has been an amazing resource for Pillar. As we both shared, we come from Silicon Valley and have seen traction in the digital health space. At the same time, we view health advocacy and coaching as a critical component to better serving patients and driving forward the next generation of accessible healthcare.
MATTER has given us the opportunity to become more immersed in the healthcare ecosystem, whether it’s direct communication with the MATTER team, connecting with other members or engaging with mentors. It’s helped us get the language for our value proposition right with respect to healthcare and share that story through MATTER’s relationships with leading health systems.
Pillar enables digital health and healthcare organizations to effectively scale patient engagement through our white-label care management platform and workforce extension of National Board Certified health coaches. Our tech-enabled platform reduces the cost of care through seamless virtual care delivery - all for less than hiring, managing and optimizing a program in-house. Pillar is backed by top-tier investors including Y Combinator, Streamlined Ventures, as well as industry-leading founders and operators across the healthcare ecosystem.
At MATTER, we believe collaboration is the best way to improve healthcare. The MATTER collaborative includes more than 800 current and alumni startups from around the world, working together with dozens of hospitals and health systems, universities and industry-leading companies to build the future of healthcare. Together we are accelerating innovation, advancing care and improving lives. For more information, visit matter.health and follow @MATTERhealth.