Jeff Arnold has a passion for making healthcare an everyday part of people’s lives. It all started in 1994 after a chance conversation with a cardiologist when he was visiting his then fiancée at her place of work, an Atlanta children’s hospital. Arnold had an idea for how to remotely monitor a cardiac patient’s heart condition in the community and soon after, he and his wife started Quality Diagnostic Services and offered their services.
Four years later, Arnold and his wife sold the company for $25 million and launched WebMD.com. He saw the potential for reaching people through the internet and pioneered the first ever online platform designed to offer patients, physicians and healthcare institutions trustworthy medical information.
Jouko Rissanen, a medical entrepreneur and an initial investor in WebMD, spoke about Arnold’s ability to connect with others and build trust. When Arnold first approached Rissanen about having lunch, he was initially skeptical. “I told him, sure, kid, I’ll give you 10 minutes,” he recalls about the then 25-year-old Arnold. “Four hours later, I was an investor.”
In 1999, Arnold signed a deal to merge WebMD with Healtheon and became a billionaire at 29 years old. He carried on as chief executive for Healtheon WebMD until the dotcom crash happened in 2000 and the company hit a rough patch. He chose to resign at that time and of the decision, he said: “I didn’t have the experience to take it forward.”
An entrepreneur and master of his deal-making craft, Arnold moved on to create the Convex Group, a media and entertainment company that buys and sells companies related to these industries. One of their most notable investments was his $2 million purchase of the popular how-to site HowStuffWorks which was then subsequently sold for $250 million to Discovery Communications.
In 2010, Arnold returned to the world of health with his launch of Sharecare, an online platform designed to be a one-stop shop for health and wellness. His company coup d’etat was enlisting American television talk show superstar, Oprah Winfrey, and celebrity medicine man Dr. Mehmet Oz as backers which consequently contributed to the large success of his venture.
Touted as a user’s very own personalized health service, it helps people track their stats, makes health recommendations and links them with services they might need to stay well. At the 2018 Las Vegas HLTH conference, Arnold spoke about Sharecare’s role in shifting people’s ideas about their health: “How do you go from episodic to every day? How do you get someone to think about this all the time, not just when they’re sick?”
Arnold had his own answers to these questions and they involved his home state of Georgia: “The data suggests that we’re number 31 out of 50 states and earlier this year we went out to our governor and said we could do better. That we can use technology and we can work with our environments… to go from number 31 to number 10 in three years.”
The Governor of Georgia enrolled 640,000 state employees in Sharecare but Arnold didn’t want to stop there. “It wasn’t right that the only way that you could have [Sharecare] is if your employer…bought it. We wanted to bring it to citizens at large for free.” And so, he did.
Arnold pursued a communications degree at the University of Georgia but did meet all the requirements to graduate. Of his choice to leave school, he said he had decided to start a business and so, in 1994, he did.