Wellory CEO Emily Hochman is on a mission to transform the lives of millions of Americans through an innovative approach to health and wellness centered on nutrition. Wellory started as an app, but it has evolved into a virtual nutrition platform that offers in-network diet and nutrition care throughout the United States.
Diet-related diseases are a growing problem in the U.S. workforce, and they have measurable negative economic impacts.
“If we can help employees eat healthier, they’re less likely to miss work, more likely to perform at a better rate, and drive a higher bottom line for their employer,” Hochman says. “And $153 billion a year is lost in productivity due to diet-related disease.”
A Pillar of Health
In September 2022, the White House announced its strategy to reduce food insecurity and diet-related diseases. It outlined a three-pillar approach to the problem, noting that “at least $2.5 billion will be invested in startup companies that are pioneering solutions to hunger and food insecurity.”
Wellory falls under the second pillar of its plan, which involves integrating nutrition and health.
“This is the first time that Wellory will open its telehealth services to Americans who lack insurance coverage,” the announcement states. “This commitment amounts to a $300 million in-kind donation over the next eight years.”
This initiative and Wellory’s platform both arrive at a critical moment in American health. The shifts in work and lifestyle due to COVID-19 over the past few years have led to a rise in diet-related diseases. The American Psychological Association’s 2021 “Stress in America” report outlined concerning health trends across the U.S. For instance, 61% of participants reported undesired weight gain during the year following the arrival of COVID—with an average weight gain of 29 pounds.
“We were thrown into a catastrophically stressful experience for everyone involved,” Hochman says.
Eating habits can be deeply connected to stress and emotions. When physical and mental health are both suffering, it can be difficult for people who have developed potentially damaging eating habits to break free of them.
“That’s why we are focused on nutrition care—on expert guidance and services,” Hochman says. “Could anyone go online and download a 10-step plan to eat healthily? Yeah, absolutely. But the behavioral health component is how you stay accountable.”
A Hyperpersonalized Approach
The Wellory platform allows users to establish a relationship with a dietitian, who considers factors like food preferences, culture, socioeconomic status, and health needs to tailor a specific nutritional plan. It’s not a one-stop shop; they continue to maintain contact to help users stay on track and reach their health goals. This sets Wellory apart from similar apps and services.
The process is smooth from a user perspective. Signing up on the Wellory website takes less than five minutes. There is an initial 60-minute consultation, which can be done by video conference or phone call, and is a collaborative process that covers health history, goals, and relevant diagnoses. The dietitian then creates a personalized plan for each patient.
“Enabling a hyperpersonalized plan is the thing that’s going to create success,” Hochman says. Once the plan has been created, Wellory helps keep the patient accountable. “And that second piece is really powerful.”
Wellory members have the option for check-in visits each week with their nutritionist—usually 15 to 30 minutes long—to provide an opportunity to offer feedback about what is and isn’t working with their plan. The dietitian can help the user adjust their plan as needed.
The level of detail depends on the patient’s needs.
“It can be everything from covering breakfast, lunch, and dinner recommendations to providing detailed recipes that fit their actual budget and shopping needs,” Hochman says. “We fundamentally do not believe that there is such a thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. That is core to our ethos as an organization.”
Unlocking Hidden Benefits
Wellory’s platform is designed to be widely accessible. Wellory contracts with insurance companies to provide services. Users provide their health insurance information when they register, and Wellory verifies eligibility and checks on benefits.
Wellory then communicates to the patient which services are covered by their insurer, matches the user to in-network dietitians, and submits claims to insurance companies. The parameters of a member’s given health insurance plan determines whether they’re responsible for a copay for those services.
“A really exciting development under the Affordable Care Act is that private and public insurers cover the cost of nutrition counseling if you’re at risk of a chronic, diet-related disease,” Hochman says. “But almost nobody knows that. We’re really working on unlocking and promoting the hidden benefits already included in your health plan.”
Wellory’s network continues to expand as demand for its services increases. The company has over 200 board certified registered dietitians in their network, with national reach.
“As much impact as we’re making at the patient, employee, consumer level—we’re creating a lot of job opportunities for dietitians and a provider practice that has gone underrepresented in the medical ecosystem for many decades,” she says.
State guidelines dictate whether a patient will work with a registered dietitian or a certified nutrition specialist, commonly known as a nutritionist.
Individual states regulate nutrition and dietetic practices, and Wellory follows those regulations as part of its commitment to making its services available to a broad population. The digital nature of the platform offers nutrition services to people in rural areas or to those who might not have access for other reasons.
Wellory also works to provide tailored information to employers and their team members about the benefits available to them through their existing health plans, Hochman says. “It’s really about how we message and unlock the benefits people don’t know about.”
Wellory offers in-office and virtual lunch-and-learn opportunities, which can include bringing a dietitian to the office to provide information about healthy food choices. Dietitians can also provide information about food choices that boost mental acuity and productivity.
“Most people can agree that when you had alcohol and ate poorly on a Tuesday night, when you wake up on Wednesday, you won’t feel good, you won’t be productive, and your brain will be fogged,” Hochman says. “That stems from what we’re putting in our systems, and we can better educate employees and teams how to eat to power their system. Your health is your wealth.”