Interview: New Vitals CEO Heyward Donigan Wants to Bring Pricing to Healthcare Shopping Platform

Photo: Heyward Donigan is the new CEO at Photo Credit: Courtesy
Heyward Donigan is the new CEO at | Courtesy

Vitals, the Lyndhurst growth-stage startup that is reinventing the way people shop and save on their medical care, recently announced that CEO and cofounder Mitch Rothschild had stepped down as CEO but would remain as chairman.

New CEO Heyward Donigan came onboard in early March, along with Jeffery H. Boyd, chairman of the Priceline Group Inc. and its former CEO. Boyd joined Vitals as adviser and board director.

Previously CEO of ValueOptions, a health improvement company that specializes in mental and emotional well-being and recovery, Donigan grew that firm to over $1 billion in revenue. The company was acquired by Boston-based Beacon Health Strategies in December.

Vitals is a venture-funded company. According to CrunchBase, the company has received $45.3 million in four rounds from six investors. had the opportunity to interview Donigan via email in early April, as she embarked on her new journey as Vitals CEO.

1. As you step into the CEO role at Vitals, can you tell us how your previous experience can be applied to this company?

I have 30 years of health care experience – and have worked at most of the biggest health plans in the country. Throughout my career, I’ve always been focused on the consumer – and particularly delivering a better customer experience. It’s exciting to be at Vitals where the work is really about making a difference in the way consumers choose health care. At the same time, health plans know they have to work towards consumerism. I can help Vitals navigate the health plan world – one of our largest growth opportunities.

2.What are your top three priorities for Vitals as a company in the next year?

  • Work on creating a better consumer experience from a UI [user interface] perspective. We want people to be able to choose the right provider by what’s important to them – not what we think is important.
  • We want to bring cost onto the site. Lately, there’s been a flurry of media attention on overinflated prices in health care. Then, there’s the fact that people are paying more out-of-pocket for their medical care with high-deductible health plans. We feel it’s imperative to display cost information for us to achieve our mission: helping consumers make intelligent health care decisions.
  • Lastly, we want to align the websites across our constituents so they’re more integrated.

3. Will there be technology enhancements or changes that youd like to usher in?

Yes. When I joined, we brought Jeff Boyd, the former CEO of Priceline, onto our corporate board as an adviser. He is arguably one of the most admired Internet entrepreneurs of our generation. He will be guiding our website enhancements as we bring pricing onto the Web and build consumer engagement. You may not see bidding for medical services, but he is definitely helping us figure out how to bring pricing, quality and patient-experience transparency together for better decision-making around health care.

4. Vitals is a venture-backed company, and these companies are often under pressure to grow and exit. How will you accelerate growth?

In the past year, we grew over 214 percent in our revenue bookings, and we only anticipate growing demand for technology solutions within the industry. There are so many pain points in health care. You will see us work hard to solve [these pain points] for the consumer and be innovative on this front. And, as we do so, we’ll ease the friction between the consumer, the provider and the health plan – creating a more valuable platform across all constituents.

5.  How do you differentiate the company from its many competitors?

There are actually only a few companies that do what we do. We’ve built a one-of-a-kind provider and consumer database that’s hard to replicate. We have more consumer expertise than any of our competitors. And we’re the only company of our size focused on the health plan market.

6. What is your leadership style like?

  • I invest in people. I’m focused on getting, keeping and developing talent – and making sure they’re motivated.
  • I believe it’s important to have clarity around goals. It builds in the accountability necessary to move a business forward.
  • I foster a very open, transparent communication with workers. We’re dependent on each other to get the job done. Consistent, honest communication is the best way to build trust.
  • And it’s important to keep humor and fun involved. Work can be hard – but it shouldn’t be joyless.

7. What is Vitals relationship with the state of New Jersey?

We’re committed to staying in New Jersey. In fact, we’re building a new office space close to our current place in Lyndhurst that can handle the employee expansion we anticipate in the coming years. We currently have close to 170 employees.

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