Maeve O’Meara decided she wanted to be part of Castlight Health when she spotted a macrotrend. An economics major with an MBA from Stanford and experience at Bain & Company, she’s trained to see widespread shifts before anyone else—and she noticed something interesting happening in healthcare payments. The Affordable Care Act and an emphasis on cost and quality were combining with other factors to move financial responsibility from the insurer to the patient.
O’Meara, who was once a pre-med student, was fresh out of business school and looking for a new-and-exciting company that could drive change in healthcare. That’s when she found Castlight, a pioneering company founded by visionary leaders Giovanni Colella of RelayHealth and Todd Park of Athenahealth (who would later serve as a technology advisor for President Obama and chief technology officer of the United States).
They started their company, Castlight Health, to apply data and technology to provide new levels of transparency regarding healthcare cost and quality. “Castlight was unique in that it was the only company in the industry tackling the right problem at the right moment,” O’Meara says. “Consumer-driven healthcare was becoming more of a trend as people were exposed to high deductible health plans, but those consumers lacked the tools they needed to make informed decisions.”
O’Meara joined the startup in 2010 as a product manager in its pre-revenue phase. She then grew with the company, holding eight different positions before she became Castlight’s CEO in July 2019.
There were many significant milestones along the way. The Wall Street Journal named Castlight the top venture-backed company in America in 2011. In 2014, Castlight was the first digital health company to invest in machine learning and artificial intelligence to build a personalized customer experience that helps employees understand and use their plan benefits.
When O’Meara started, Castlight had no product and no revenue. Now, the public company with nearly 600 employees serves millions of users. Its annual revenues are around $150 million. Moving through the growing company and working onstrategy, business development, and the user experience kept her close to employees and customers alike. It also prepared her to serve as CEO.
In fact, O’Meara was so prepared that she was able to introduce big strategic changes on day one. She pioneered the addition of a team of “care guides” to Castlight’s digital navigation solution. That move to add a service element to its tech platform helped Castlight cement its status as the market leader in navigation. “We are guiding people to the right care, and that’s important because navigation influences costs and improves outcomes,” O’Meara says.
Castlight already had rich data sets based on more than ten years of claims data and member insights. Now, its Care Guides use the same technology and data insights to help members with highly personalized care to schedule appointments, answer questions, coordinate care, dispute incorrect bills, and act as personal health advocates. O’Meara also announced a go-to-market strategy to expand offerings from the self-insured commercial market to health plans.
Under O’Meara’s leadership, Castlight found new purpose and energy—and then the global coronavirus pandemic hit just six months later. The company typically sells to VPs of benefits, and those leaders were the ones leading employer responses to their populations in crisis. Castlight’s teams quickly shifted to ensure they could support customers and help them navigate uncertain times.
Before there was a national database, O’Meara and her dedicated “Castlighters” volunteered to build the COVID-19 Test Site Finder, which went live to the general public in early April 2020. They then partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital and the CDC to create a national COVID-19 vaccine inventory management platform for vaccine distributors and the public-facing COVID-19 VaccineFinder site, which later became Vaccines.gov.
Leaders at Castlight anticipate that the pandemic will have lasting results. “COVID has increased the adoption of digital solutions and awareness of how important navigation is,” O’Meara says, adding that deferred care will soon create an “avalanche of costs” and impact population health. Those factors—which disproportionately impact poorer communities and people of color—motivate her to ensure that all plan participants can find effective physicians and specialists who deliver the right care.
The investments O’Meara has made as CEO are paying off. In January of 2022, more than 80 percent of Castlight’s new customers were purchasing the company’s navigation platform and Care Guides service.
For customers that are already using them, employers are experiencing a 30 percent increase in member engagement. Today, 40 percent of new bookings come straight from health plan clients.
This all led to Castlight’s best sales quarter in company history. O’Meara is finding success in a challenging time. She’s one of the few health tech CEOs who’s risen through the ranks of her own company, and others are taking notice.
As a result of her leadership, performance, and passion for the business, at least eight former Castlighters—including O’Meara’s first boss—have returned to the company to help her execute her bold and exciting new vision to transform healthcare.