Health Tech: Tim Ummel on How Give Virtual Care’s Technology Can Make an Important Impact On Our Overall Wellness
An Interview With Luke Kervin
Be evergreen. If you’re trying to do something well, you need to figure out how the tech will not have an end of life. How will it continue to be adaptable? Is it built in a way that, as social impact continues to change, can you adapt it?
In recent years, Big Tech has gotten a bad rep. But of course many tech companies are doing important work making monumental positive changes to society, health, and the environment. To highlight these, we started a new interview series about “Technology Making An Important Positive Social Impact”. We are interviewing leaders of tech companies who are creating or have created a tech product that is helping to make a positive change in people’s lives or the environment. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tim Ummel, founder and CEO Of Give Virtual Care (GVC).
Ummel has more than 25 years of experience in the technology and development industries. After the quarantine in March 2020, his most crucial idea came: to provide highly affordable healthcare solutions in the 1099, part-time and hourly work sectors. This led to a transition into the virtual healthcare space and the creation of an alternative to traditional health insurance with the GVC Tech Health App, which is a HIPAA compliant, aggregated virtual healthcare membership. GVC provides businesses, higher learning institutions, restaurants and the hospitality industry with a non-insurance alternative to offer their employees that gives them access to general healthcare, mental health services, crisis care, expert second opinions and discounted prescriptions.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory and how you grew up?
I was born in Dallas, Texas, but grew up in the Midwest. My father was a professional horse trainer and I jokingly say that I was born in a horse stall. We had no summer vacations, no time off. Every day before school we cleaned stalls. After school we’d come home and feed the horses, do homework and then went to work. My work ethic is 100 percent driven from growing up on a farm. At the same time, being in rural America I was exposed to what middle of America life is and it’s hard. It is very hand to mouth. You don’t ever forget those roots.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I had two stints in corporate America, but I hit my head on the proverbial glass ceiling and thought “I need to do more, and I can do it myself.” I moved to Arizona to take a job in the sports agency world where I was responsible for rebranding professional athletes in the golf and baseball sectors. Within two years I tried to buy the firm at which I was employed, and at that moment I realized I am not a good corporate career guy.
I have the entrepreneurial spirit where I just have to figure it out myself. I’ve had tremendous amounts of failures, but also have had numerous successes. I’ve learned from both, but you can look in the mirror and go “the buck stops with me.” It is either there or it isn’t.
That strong drive allowed me to create Give Virtual Care (GVC), because I don’t have healthcare in my professional background, but I’ve seen the need for change by having 400 employees at once and having to write those insurance checks. Coming from that, I knew that there must be a better solution. Not being in the healthcare sector, I also don’t bring any bad habits because I don’t know or follow the rules of healthcare. But I’ve built a lot of technology and thought if GVC is built the way I would want to use it, then I think it can be workable to the rest of the world. I think that’s why GVC is different from what has been offered in the healthcare market and what’s been the standard and why we’re the most progressive non-insurance solution — because we’re not insurance.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My wife and I have been married 25 years in May. If I didn’t have someone supporting my entrepreneurial spirit in all the good times, but more importantly all the challenging times, I would not be anywhere near where I am. Having her as a soulmate and friend, she is someone I absolutely, unequivocally trust.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My team will tell me that it is “Yesterday is over and I can’t change it. I can only focus on tomorrow.”
I am not big on dwelling on the past. It happened. We succeeded. We failed. You can’t change it because it’s done. I just look at tomorrow. How do I make tomorrow better? How do I keep the business, the mission, the focus, and the thoughts propelling forward?
You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Integrity would be the first. I grew up on a farm with 300 horses in the 1980s and 1990s where integrity is all you have, and a handshake meant everything.
Two, would be I’m a big into collaboration. We’ve become a bit of a one-way street society recently. Work needs to be a two-way street on giving and receiving what you both need.
And third is I’m all about Team. No one is good at what they do unless they have an amazing team. My core people at GVC are amazing. We have never been in the same room ever because the company started during the pandemic. That was the biggest learning curve for me, but COVID taught us you can get past anything. I never thought I could work with people I haven’t met in person because I’m collaborative and like to be around the table working in tandem together. For me, to get beyond that and still be successful — it is pretty incredible.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about the tech tools that you are helping to create that can make a positive impact on our wellness. To begin, which particular problems are you aiming to solve?
Give Virtual Care (GVC) is paving the way in the virtual healthcare space by providing an alternative to traditional health insurance. In particular, through the GVC Health Tech app, businesses, restaurants and universities can provide an affordable non-insurance healthcare membership to 1099, part-time and hourly workers. These are workers who have a long history of being left out of company health insurance plans or can’t afford it, so our goal is to have another option so they can receive crucial general and mental health services, expert second opinions, crisis care and discounted prescriptions. There also is a consumer version, the GVC App, which will be launching soon for individuals and families.
How do you think your technology can address this?
The GVC Health Tech app is the first aggregated services Virtual Healthcare Membership model covering exactly what Americans use daily. Each membership includes the member plus a spouse or life partner and up to 15 children for family members in the home. Regardless of the day or time, members have unlimited and immediate virtual access to general health doctors and licensed mental health professionals without having to pay a copay. Members can make an appointment for expert second opinions and order discounted prescriptions with the touch of a button.
It also is a win for businesses because it will set them apart from competitors by offering access to people who have been uninsured. The mental health access is also unprecedented because often those services are costly, or you have to wait to schedule an appointment. Using the GVC App, you can talk to someone at any time of day, use our crisis care line and there are no additional fees.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
In March 2020, when the quarantine happened and people began to lose their jobs, I began thinking about my friends in the golf industry who are 1099 or contract workers, who are hourly or part-time employees and how there is this gap that exists in the healthcare industry that needed to be addressed for anyone who is out of work or who is not eligible for company health insurance plans.
How do you think this might change the world?
By providing a non-insurance solution to health insurance, we are giving people access to a healthcare alternative at an affordable price point. There are millions of people in the United States without healthcare, and this will allow them to have virtual appointments with general doctors, take care of their mental health needs and access prescriptions at discounted rates.
Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
No drawbacks whatsoever. We only remind members that they can invite their spouse or life partner and up to 15 family members living within the same household for only one low price point per month. Our mission is to make sure we get a virtual healthcare solution in as many hands for as many people as possible. Sometimes we also need to remind users that this healthcare technology is theirs to share.
Here is the main question for our discussion. Based on your experience and success, can you please share “Five things you need to know to successfully create technology that can make a positive social impact”? (Please share a story or an example, for each.)
- Technology must be universal. It must be ubiquitous across all platforms.
- Make it user-friendly. We’ve used the term “user-friendly,” but it truly needs be or else there is no chance to scale. If you truly want to have social impact and to reach the largest amount of people, you must make it the least complicated and the easiest to use.
- Start with the end user and work backward. If you’re not thinking of the consumer and working in reverse, you won’t get there because technology needs to be consumer sensible.
- Don’t over complicate it. For tech development today, regarding UI or UX, you can’t overcomplicate it. For instance, if you use a two-point font or a 30-point font, they’re both going to offend someone. So, it’s about finding a balance where you can meet in the middle with a common denominator that doesn’t offend all people, but also makes your product the most receptive.
- Be evergreen. If you’re trying to do something well, you need to figure out how the tech will not have an end of life. How will it continue to be adaptable? Is it built in a way that, as social impact continues to change, can you adapt it?
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
You must discover the core purpose first then breathe your mission. Purpose must outweigh profit to make a social impact. For instance, I should not be here today, I should be deceased. In January 2021 I was rushed to the hospital with severe COVID-19 and diagnosed with walking pneumonia. I lost 27 pounds in four days and was told to tell my wife and kids goodbye via FaceTime by medical staff. So, when you come back from near-death you realize you have been given an opportunity, for whatever reason — mine was that near-death experience — and you say, “OK, it has to be purpose over profit every single day.” Profit will come, but it must be true to your mission and purpose.
If you are a young person who wants to change racism, poverty, cancer ask yourself, “What’s your why? What’s your mission?” You can’t have the whole elephant; you need to find the small section of the tail. What’s your impact going to be on that one piece. This thought process allows you to step back in two months or two years and say, “I made a difference.” If you try to change all of it, you can’t do it.
There are 35.4 million employed in America that are 1099, hourly or part-time that qualify for insurance but don’t take it because it’s too expensive or they simply cannot get it until the benefit enrollment period. My only mission is what kind of dent can I make in that sector. Again, I’m not trying to have the whole elephant; I am trying to take the small piece of the tail to affect that sector and make a large impact there.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson because he was raised by a single mom with a hardworking Samoan background and can appreciate and realize how hard it is to get through life and achieve success. Now, he is at a place in his life where he has one of the largest number of Instagram followers on the planet and with one push of a button can affect real change. I’d ask him, “Do you want to affect change to those you grew up with — people who can now sleep at night knowing they have access to a doctor, to get prescription care, to get mental health care and anxiety care?” Because he can affect that kind of change.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can find us at www.givevirtualcare.com, www.gvchealthtech.com, on Facebook at @givevirtualcare and on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/gvc-health-tech/.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational, and we wish you continued success in your important work.
About the Interviewer: Luke Kervin is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of PatientPop, an award-winning practice growth technology platform. PatientPop is Kervin’s third successful business venture. Prior to co-founding PatientPop, Kervin co-founded and was President of ShopNation (acquired by Meredith Corporation) and was the first executive hire at StarBrand Media (acquired by POPSUGAR).