How Kurt Waltenbaugh Transformed into a Healthcare Hero

Posted in News on Friday, April 30, 2021.

Kurt Waltenbaugh’s road to healthcare heroism began in retail.

That’s right. Retail.

Waltenbaugh is the CEO of Carrot Health, the company he co-founded in 2014 that uses data to help enable a future with no barriers to better health for everyone. But it was a conversation many years ago  with a data scientist about shopping data and credit card spending that lead to Waltenbaugh’s eureka moment.

“He told me that, by crunching that information, he could predict a divorce six months in advance,” Waltenbaugh told Charlie Katz of Authority Magazine. “My jaw hit the floor and we began talking it through so I could understand what he meant. What he explained was that life events, like divorce or bankruptcy, show up in changes to behavior patterns before they show up in legal documents. We get an advance signal and learn more about behaviors by paying attention to what people are buying, how they shop, how they live their lives. It’s a much better predictor of what they will do in the future than any survey or interview, because people know what’s going on in their own lives and make adjustments long before anything shows up downstream.”

Waltenbaugh decided to merge data with healthcare in creating Carrot Health. And he has been recognized as a 2021 Health Care Hero by Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal. Launched to honor those who went above and beyond to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic while also providing care for non-COVID patients, the program recognizes individuals who put innovation, care, dedication and compassion to work to improve the human condition. Improving the human condition is why Waltenbaugh helped create Carrot Health to begin with, and this year his passion for addressing the social determinants of health (SDoH) helped lead to the development of Carrot Health’s COVID-19 Critical Infection Risk Dashboard, which predicts which populations and communities are most prone to the negative impacts of a COVID outbreak.

Carrot Health also created the Carrot Social Risk Grouper®, developed to help understand, identify, measure and quantify the social barriers and circumstances in which people live. The SRG also identifies who is most at risk in a population to help determine which interventions may help lead to better outcomes.

“Our healthcare system is fundamentally flawed. Rather than working proactively to keep people healthy, we wait for them to get sick and then patch them up. We’re doing it backwards,” Waltenbaugh told Katz. “90% of Americans participate in a lifestyle that guarantees that they will suffer from at least one chronic illness in their lifetime. Why? In some instances, it’s because of a set of non-clinical barriers commonly referred to as social determinants of health. People who are homeless or have unstable housing don’t have time to exercise regularly; others may not have the transportation or the money to go grocery shopping in order to prepare fresh, nutritious meals.

“Our purpose at Carrot Health is to use the bright light of data to identify and remove those disparities so we can all be healthier up front.”

Spoken like a true hero.

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