Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of interviews running enthusiast and Associate Editor Erika Cohen will conduct with CEOs and executives in the state who are runners. This is a chance to hear what executives have to say when they take off the suit and put on running shoes. Want to go for a run with Erika? Contact her at ecohen@BusinessNHmagazine.com.
When Heather Lavoie has a hard day, her four kids will tell her, “You would probably feel a lot better if you went for a run.” That’s an understatement. Lavoie is a triathlete who barely missed the qualification time for the world half ironman championships having completed The Timberman 70.3 (a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and 13.1 mile run) in just under 5 hours and 40 minutes. That’s one hour faster than I very proudly finished that same race last summer. Lavoie is also running the Boston Marathon for the first time this month and is headed to Leadville, Colo. later this year for a 100-mile mountain bike race.
This is a woman who can go the distance and her professional track record is as impressive as her athletic one. Lavoie cofounded Choicelinx Corporation, a CIGNA Health Care subsidiary that provides health care benefit management solutions. She is now COO of Geneia, a health care tech company in Concord, and president of Geneia Innovations. While the company’s headquarters, and most of its 200-plus staff, are located in Harrisburg, Pa., a smaller team of product development and marketing employees work in NH.
While on a run through the streets of Concord, Lavoie talks about the tech Geneia has deployed in the last year, including population health software to assess patients at risk of disease or readmission and those due for certain preventative tests. In January, the company launched remote monitoring technology, or wearables, to monitor patient vital signs from home. “When it comes to work, I do love to build things. I did a brief stint outside of health care but it was very tough because just selling more things wasn’t motivating to me. I really wanted to change lives,” she says. Geneia also helps businesses develop wellness programs; offers care management programs to health plans and provides consulting services to hospitals.
Health care, she says, is very personal, and that is not taken into account enough, particularly in discussions about how to effect change in health care costs and engaging patients. “We often shy away from talking about what it really takes, and it takes one person at a time,” says Lavoie, who speaks nationally about health care topics. She says it is critical to know what motivates people, and effective wellness programs involve social workers who help people to define their intrinsic motivation, whether it is playing easily with a grandchild or going for walks around the block.
The company practices what it preaches, randomly selecting two non-runners from its staff to receive training and nutritional counseling to run a half marathon in Boston. (Geneia also covered travel and race entry fees.) Both women finished the race, which was sponsored by Geneia and Runner’s World magazine. “Their story is incredibly motivating for the rest of the team,” she says.
So what motivates Lavoie? Meeting up with her girlfriends most mornings at 5:30 to run, catch up on each other’s lives and talk through problems. She is also passionate about being a role model for her daughter and other girls on how they can succeed. “There are some people who just give it all to their career. But for most of us, we can’t, and if we thought that’s what it takes, we’d never get into it in the first place. Making girls know it’s always messy, no matter what job you have, and that there is no such thing as balance across everything every day, but that you can do it, is important to me.”