“Telemedicine is going to become mainstream”: Interview with Alan’s CEO Jean-Charles Samuelian-Werve

Founded in 2016 in France, Alan is a leading digital health insurance provider striving to shape the future of the healthcare system through its holistic tool for people to manage not only their health, but their entire wellbeing. With a clear focus on the final user, startup Alan believes that healthcare should be friendly, fair and frictionless.

We recently spoke with Alan’s CEO, Jean-Charles Samuelian-Werve, who walked us through the company’s mission, culture and how its services have been helping citizens go through the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, he revealed to us his main observations regarding the potential consequences of the coronavirus crisis on the European healthcare system as well as his expansion plans to other countries in the near future. Read on to find out what’s next in digital health insurance.

Hi Jean-Charles, very excited to have you here! Could you kindly tell us what prompted you to completely reinvent the healthcare industry and found Alan, the first digital health insurance company in France back in 2016?

I co-founded Alan with Charles Gorintin, our CTO, in 2016, as I experienced a certain frustration with healthcare services and prevention tools in both my personal and professional life. Coming from a family of doctors, I have always wondered how to improve interaction with the health care system. At the same time, I couldn’t bear the complexity of finding a complementary health insurance policy for the first startup company I co-founded, Expliseat.

What are the main healthcare services and products that differentiate Alan from other traditional insurance companies? 

Since our creation, we have been offering de-materialised health insurance via a circuit that is intended to simplify and modernise the system for users. Members, whether they are companies or individuals, can sign up for themselves (and their employees) in just a few minutes. Alan’s goal is to rethink the way individuals access healthcare, with a model that is more focused on their needs, more preventive, more transparent and more fluid. By delivering better tools and services to its members, Alan wants to help transform healthcare systems. Our vision is to become everyone’s health partner, in France and soon throughout Europe.

How has Alan responded to the COVID-19 crisis? Could you give us a few examples of the more recent services you’ve added to help members cope with it? 

For Alan, the Covid-19 crisis has only confirmed the importance of improving the health care system. We see everything we have developed during the crisis as a long-term investment. From the very beginning of lockdown, we launched “Coup de pouce”, a free programme open to all, providing access to the latest information on the pandemic, a personalised self-diagnosis test, a telemedicine service, as well as meditation and yoga programsme to improve everyone’s well-being during containment.

Alan is growing rapidly every year and with the recent funding of €50 million, you’re planning to expand to other European countries soon. For whom will Alan Health be available, when and in which sectors and countries?

Our mission is global, and we want to provide our services on the widest possible scale. Following the opening of two new offices in Spain and Belgium which we plan for the summer of 2020, Alan aims to expand into many European countries over the next 5 years. Initially, Alan’s members were entrepreneurs, companies and self-employed individuals. Today, Alan is open to every sector and company, even large corporations, with the exact same level of ease and transparency.

You’ve mentioned that Alan’s mission is to be more than a health insurance company – you want Alan to become people’s health ally. What are the steps you’re taking to achieve this? 

We started by building a digital health insurance because it is the common foundation of the whole system. But we cannot, especially in the exceptional situation we are in, limit our action to the transactional aspect of health. Our know-how, that we have developed to fully digitise our insurance product, is something we want to put to good use across the entire value chain. We want our members to be able to use the Alan app to access instant information when they are concerned about their health, find and communicate with practitioners, or receive personalised and proactive health advice. We have built a few tools around our insurance product such as Alan Maps, which helps members find a Doctor or a Lab according to location and price, a proactive care notification and lately an integrated platform allowing companies to order free masks for their employees.

Company culture is a top priority at Alan. Which cultural norms have you incorporated in the company and how do you measure something so tough to describe as culture?

We have indeed established a very specific corporate culture, that we are very proud of. We offer working conditions that are truly oriented towards the well-being of the employee, and therefore, ultimately, of the company itself.

Alan puts a premium on distributed ownership: power is given to all employees to be the pillars of their role in the company. In that spirit, we also got rid of meetings. This organisation allows anyone to work remotely through the use of effective collaborative tools and processes, which really helps focus on A+ problems.

Radical transparency helps anyone access the information she or he may need to make the right decisions. It’s one of our major pillars and it truly has no limit at Alan. We share literally everything with the team, from salary grids to fundraising details and working methods. Everything is documented and accessible.

How do you empower people within your company to innovate?

We try our best to help our people grow, along with the group and the company, particularly through a culture of thorough feedback. Pairs of “coach” and “coachee” have thus been created. Every six months, each employee is evaluated by a group of peers and receives feedback on his or her performance and development paths. This feedback culture is very little explored in France, but it allows for a real personalization of the employee’s experience in order to give them all the means necessary to evolve within the company.

How do you envision the future of European health insurance? What will it be like in 5 years from now? 

In the face of Covid-19, we believe that the expectations regarding the health care system will lead to a much faster digital transition than has been the case to date. The Covid-19 crisis has reinforced the aspiration of individuals to have greater control over their own health and to receive better care at all levels. For us, it is about making the health care pathway smoother, but more importantly, it is about providing better care. Our main observations revolve around the following:

  • People will want to help the system personally. The amazing sense of community responsibility is becoming apparent. As a consequence, we will need tools and products for people to help and contribute to the system.
  • People will want more ownership of their healthcare, and will want to be more proactive, better understand what is happening to them. As a consequence, we will need to help people integrate wellness activities and alternative medicine into their lifestyle, being proactive about controlling their health outcomes.
  • Outside the crisis, the number of doctors and people who will have tested telemedicine will be orders of magnitude above pre-crisis. Habits are going to change: telemedicine, chatting with a doctor, symptom checkers are going to become mainstream.
  • The role of employers in the health of their employees will be transformed: for the first time employers have been confronted with making decisions affecting the health of all their employees. Should I close my office? How and when? Will the people I lay off be covered? How to protect the mental health of my contained employees? As a consequence, we will need to help companies and admins be the health partners to their teams, help them care about the health of their employees.

On each one of these topics, Alan has a value proposition to make.