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People You Should Know – Deb Gordon

Deb Gordon, Co-Director/Co-Founder, and CEO, Alliance of Professional Health Advocates/Consumer Health Advocacy Inc.

Deb Gordon

Tell us about yourself and your journey to where you are.

I like to say I’ve spent my career trying to level the playing field for health care consumers, and I’m still working on that! I started my career in public health consulting. My very first project was to support a focus group study with older, lower-income women about their attitudes and behaviors toward breast and cervical cancer screening. I was hooked on consumer insights, and I can trace my career in health care consumer marketing back to that project. 

I spent nearly a decade (after getting my MBA and doing a few other roles) as head of marketing for a health plan that served lower-income consumers in Massachusetts. I helped lead membership growth and engagement through health care reform at the state level and through the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. I wound up stepping off the corporate ladder to become a senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government. There, I researched the changing role of consumers in the American health care system and wrote a book (The Health Care Consumer’s Manifesto) based on that research. The book explores why we don’t shop for health care the way we shop for everything else, and what might happen if we reframed financial responsibility and vulnerability into purchasing power in health care. 

After writing the book, I had a plan to launch a venture that would help consumers get more value for their health care dollars. The book came out right as the pandemic was beginning, so instead of jumping right into the new venture I wound up writing (and writing and writing) for outlets such as Forbes, HealthyWomen, and others. Once I got my COVID-19 vaccine and it seemed like the world would return to some semblance of normal, I was able to refocus on how to help health care consumers in tangible ways.

Tell us what your company does.

We connect people who need help with any aspect of their health care, which is virtually everyone, with expert advocates who can help. (And yes, these people exist!)

Tell us how your service addresses the pain points of your customers.

Consumers are overwhelmed, confused, scared, and frustrated by medical bills, health insurance, and health care services. We connect them with experts who help them navigate these challenges. By accompanying people through their financial and/or clinical health care journeys, we bring them peace of mind, reassurance that they are not alone, and help to get what they need.

For every company or organization that serves consumers (as employees, patients, customers, or stakeholders), we take health care hassles off the table so consumers can focus on what matters most to them—their jobs, their families, their lives.

Most people would be surprised to know that my company …

exists! Patient advocacy is health care’s hidden gem. Most people we encounter, even deep health care insiders, don’t know that you can hire an independent advocate to help you navigate health care situations.

What would you say are the most exciting things happening in your segment of the industry right now?

I think there’s not only wide recognition that health care is hard to navigate, but there’s a growing awareness that people need help from humans with inside knowledge of the system. For all the focus on technology, data and automation—all of which are vital—there’s a growing appreciation for a human touch. Technology alone is insufficient. We envision ourselves at the nexus of all those great technology advances and human intervention.

What’s your favorite thing to do on weekends?

I run (when I’m not injured), binge-watch TV with my kids, take walks, and I love to go out to eat.

What TV shows do you turn to when you’re binge-watching?

Some of my favorite series are Schitt’s Creek, Silicon Valley, Billions, Succession, The Crown, and I’m currently watching Ozark. (Yes, I’m late on this one.)

Is there a great book you’d recommend to your colleagues or customers?

The Healing of America by T.R. Reid

What’s one tip you’d offer to health care consumers for getting what they need?

Don’t give up. There’s always someone who can help you; you just have to find that person.

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