Ami Kumordzie (Founder and CEO, Sika Health)
Ami Kumordzie is the Founder & CEO of Sika Health, where she is on a mission to reinvent the way people pay for their health, starting by enabling merchants to accept HSA and FSA funds at checkout. She is a Stanford-trained physician and former consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, before becoming the Senior Manager of Strategic Innovation at BD.
Can you explain your job to a five-year-old?
I'm the founder and CEO of a company called Sika Health. I'm actually a physician turned founder. So I started off my career thinking that I was going to spend the rest of my life as an anesthesiologist helping the sickest of patients.
But I decided to change my path because I realized that I was really only serving people when they were already sick, when they're already on decline. And what I really wanted to do was to help keep people healthier longer. And unfortunately, our system is not well set up for that.
Our system makes money when people get sick all the way through, even end-of-life care. And I really wish that there was a way that our system could help people before they got sick, that could help prevent illness. And that we were able to invest more of our time and resources towards that.
And so I knew that the way that I could work towards that goal was personally bending my career towards helping people stay healthier longer. So, that's part of why I decided not to become a physician, not to practice medicine, and instead to start building a company with that goal of helping people stay healthier longer.
Now to answer your question of what we do. Specifically, we are in the space of making it easier to pay for your healthcare needs. We understand that, of course, many times it can be very challenging and very expensive to pay for health care, and there are a lot of tools out there that are meant to make it easier, specifically tools like your healthcare plan, your healthcare benefits, certain benefits like HSAs or FSAs that are meant to make things easier, but they can be really hard to use. So, our goal is to make those tools easier to use, so that it can be easier to invest in your healthcare and invest in your everyday healthcare needs. And the way that we do that is that we work with the various vendors that sell different healthcare products and services, and we make it easy for them to accept your healthcare dollars as a form of payment.
Today, the way that most people pay for things, any number of things, is maybe through a credit card, maybe through a financing program like a Buy Now Pay Later, and we want to create a new option where you can actually pay with your healthcare plan, with your healthcare dollars. And we're starting with a part of your healthcare dollars called HSAs and FSAs. They're a part of your healthcare plan that allows you to spend money that you don't get taxed on, pre-tax money, so that that money that you spent can go farther for you and that you can get more with the same amount of money, but by paying less.
What excites you most about your job?
I think it's a couple of things. The first is that I really do believe that we're making a big impact on healthcare and we are bending the curve on a trend in healthcare that I believe needs to change.
Today, as a healthcare system, we spend over 4 trillion on healthcare, and that's more than 20 percent of our overall GDP, our overall spends in this country. And that's okay. Healthcare is an important investment to make as a country. I think what's challenging about that, though, is that the vast majority of those dollars are spent on sick care, on intervening after someone has already been diagnosed with an illness. And what I believe that we're doing at Sika Health is actually creating a way for us to intervene in a much more preventative and proactive way.
So just to give you some examples of how we do that and the way that we work. I mentioned that we're financial technology, we're similar to let's say PayPal, but imagine if you could pay via PayPal with your healthcare dollars. And some of the ways that we help you to spend those healthcare dollars are on things like, let's say, a pain relief product or a massage gun that can, help you to maintain your musculoskeletal health outside the doctor's office.
A lot of the partners that we work with are feminine care and women's health products.
For example, we work with a company called Elitone. That's a medical device for women who are postpartum that, after having a baby, really struggle with incontinence, and it gives them a way that they can prevent and treat that condition rather than having that plague them for many years or taking them out of the workforce. And hopefully, it keeps you out of the doctor's office, keeps you from progressing to a surgery, for example, that can be very costly and debilitating.
Which trend will change the future of medicine?
I think one of the big trends that I'm seeing, that I'm hoping will be accelerated, is that more and more healthcare plans are starting to pay for prevention. They're starting to get the message that it's cheaper to pay to prevent the disease than to treat the disease. It's cheaper to pay for the salad than it is to pay for the insulin. And it's also better to pay for the salad than it is for the insulin.
So, part of the way that is showing up is in this trend of, similar to HSAs and FSAs, in this trend of consumer-directed benefits, where more and more employers, more and more health plans,
and even the government, are starting to funnel more resources into accounts like HSAs and FSAs that consumers can use to start to invest in more preventative health care, things like more nutritious food or supplements, things like exercise programs and equipment to improve their wellness and their fitness.
And that's what we're here to help unlock at Sika. When those consumers have those resources available to them, a way for them to easily use those resources. So that we can improve overall our health as individuals and as a nation.
And just to highlight one statistic related to that. So HSAs, for example, are growing really quickly. And they're one example of these special accounts that consumers get in order to invest in their health. In the past five years, the assets in these accounts have about doubled and they're on track to double again. And even just between last year and this year, people contributed 20 percent more this year than they did last year. And actually, another trend is the IRS, which governs the way these accounts are used, is also increasing the limits. So in 2024, a family with two adults over the age of 55 will be able to contribute over $10,000 into an HSA. That's half of what you can contribute to a 401K. And so, that's a clear signal from the government that they want us to start investing in our health in the same way as we're investing in our retirement, in other parts of our financial life, because health is truly wealth. That's a trend that I'm really excited about and I'm glad to be at the forefront of with Sika Health.
Looking back, which trends have you missed or underestimated?
I think one trend that I think even I underestimated the significance of is how digital health is what started the transition from health from being purely this thing that's a sort of brick and mortar, face-to-face, in-person interaction to one that is truly now digital. And I think that trend is really here to stay.
Even just thinking back to when I was in medical school, digital health was just starting to form, right? We were just starting to see companies like Omada and Livongo take shape, which were ways that people with diabetes, rather than having to bend their lives and their workaround seeing a specialist at a certain cadence, could have access to a suite of specialists and an app and a set of tools like a smart scale or a, a sensor that could help them maintain their health in a purely digital form and in a way that was much more convenient for them.
And so I think part of what's been surprising is, at least when this trend first started, it wasn't clear that this trend was here to stay. It wasn't clear that these types of businesses would be sustainable and would be able to scale and could deliver the same level of healthcare at a lower cost and with greater advocacy.
And now it's imperative that we start to introduce digital engagement into healthcare, both for the benefit of the consumer to have more convenience as well as for the benefit of the system.
To deliver that care at a much lower cost. So I think overall, the trend that we're seeing that I think has even exceeded my expectations is that the front door of healthcare really has become digital and access to digital tools is really now required.
I think that really aligns with our goals at Sika Health. We see these more digital tools as more consumer-friendly tools. Those tools will require a new way to pay and a new way to access. Hence the need for more consumer-forward, more digital experiences when it comes to the payment side of healthcare.
Which MedTech initiative or startup deserves more attention?
I'm really excited about digital health companies that are investing and drawing more attention to women and women's health needs.
So just to name a few of those, I mentioned Elitone, which is a company that's focused on postpartum women and solving this problem that there's a lot of shame around when there doesn't need to be. Evvy is another company that comes to mind. They're really bringing a data-driven genomics lens to something as simple as a woman's microbiome, which, for whatever reason, has not been studied effectively until 2023. And how can we treat these conditions that are so common to so many of us if we don't at least understand the scientific basis?
I think it's really important that, as we see this trend in digital health, as we see a trend towards more consumer-directed healthcare, to leverage the convenience and the benefits to serve populations that have been underserved and overlooked. And unfortunately, women as a category are one of those populations, especially in this country. Of course, that problem only compounds when we're talking about women from underrepresented groups or women of color.
And many of the companies that I mentioned are seed stage companies or series A stage companies like Sika, which I think is a comment in and of itself. We're only just starting to see, more women founders tackling women-centric issues and more investors, more female investors, that are here to back the cause. And so I think there's a lesson in that.
And certainly, there are other later-stage companies. Maven Clinic is probably the other big one that comes to mind or Tia. But I think overall, this is a very nascent trend still in this very nascent space. But regardless, I'm glad that at least we're starting the conversation here. Starting with investing more in women supporting businesses that are focused on ultimately helping people to invest in their health more proactively and that's a big part of our focus as well.
And just to disclose: Evvy and Elitone are both a couple of partners that we work with.
Where would you put a million dollars?
I just feel like, no matter what the cause, a million dollars wouldn't be enough. I genuinely believe that healthcare is the root cause of everything. And without our health, we have no wealth, we have no access to progress in our lives. I think it would have to be in health and in funding policies that make it easier for people to invest in their health more proactively.
I know this is bringing it closely back to Sika, but I would invest in government programs that maybe enable us to have a broader form of universal healthcare, and for part of that to be for food and exercise and preventative care to be part of that what is recognized as healthcare.
I think we just do ourselves such a disservice by not recognizing prevention. As we're making decisions around how we pay for health—and it wouldn't be a million dollars, it’d probably be a billion or a trillion—but I would love to see us start to invest some significant order of magnitude funding into helping people access more preventative healthcare, whether that's better nutrition through programs like food stamps programs or using HSA funds for fitness.
What's the best advice you've ever received?
The best advice I've received along my journey I learned as a consultant. And it was to follow people, not projects. And what was meant by that was people are at the heart of everything. The better that we can either find mentors or support the people around us—whether it's our team, whether it's our colleagues—the more success we'll have as individuals.
And so I think that's really at the heart of what I do. What I'm focused on at Sika Health is creating a path to support my team, to invest in my team. With an incredible team, we can really conquer anything. And likewise, finding people who are aligned and excited about being part of this team that's changing the world in a really big way.