Adam Sabloff, CEO and founder of VirtualHealth, says his father’s watchwords, “if you don’t quit, you’ll win,” have inspired and motivated him throughout a varied career that has had ups and downs.
Climbing the Career Ladder: 10th* in a series of 10 profiles of healthcare executives and their careers.
Growing up in Lake Success on Long Island, New York, Adam Sabloff had pinned his dreams to a career in the film industry. He spent summers interning at various production agencies in Los Angeles, and after graduating from Emory University in Atlanta, he worked in the mailroom of an agency. “I loved the creativity and people in the industry,” says Sabloff, “but I was quickly disillusioned by the spotlight.I wanted to tell stories and I wanted to create, but I didn’t want the fanfare.”
The real estate industry beckoned as the film industry’s appeal faded and faltered. Sabloff’s first job was in Manhattan with the Newmark Group, a large commercial real estate company. Sabloff says there’s more overlap between real estate and film than one might imagine: “There is a tremendous amount of collaboration that takes place between architects, interior designers, trade unions, marketing firms and brands. When it’s over, you have something that was far greater than the sum of the parts.” But his career veered off in an unexpected direction after one of his clients asked him to check out a waterfront property in New Orleans. Sabloff purchased a 75,000-square foot warehouse next to it “on a whim.” To cover the cost, the warehouse was rented out for events and live music. That business evolved into TwiRoPa, a huge entertainment complex with multiple stages and dance floors.
Then, in August 2005, total disaster. And another curve in the career path.
“We had just been named one of the top 10 venues in the country and were in the process of putting a restaurant on the second floor when Hurricane Katrina hit,” says Sabloff. The fledging entertainment center was irreparably damaged by the category five hurricane and Sabloff’s apartment, condemned. He says he lost everything and wound up living with his grandmother in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, while trying to figure out his next move.
“At the time," he says, "I thought this was the lowest point of my life."
But Sabloff says he became closer to his grandmother — “one of the smartest and most magnetic people I have ever known" — and got an experiential, hard-knocks lesson about the down-then-up dynamics of success. “It’s not about getting knocked down. Everyone gets knocked down,” he says. “It’s about getting back up again.”
At this point in his life, for Sabloff, “getting back up again” meant jumping back into real estate. He joined a New York City-based company called Midtown Equities and while with Midtown, Sabloff worked on a Ritz-Carlton Residences project in Baltimore. That undertaking and others opened up his eyes to the healthcare needs of older people and to “next generation care delivery that would make the home an organic extension of the healthcare continuum.” Then a late-stage cancer diagnosis and loss of a close family member hit hard and revealed to Sabloff the gaping shortcomings of American healthcare: extravagant costs, enormous resources in medical personnel and service, bad outcomes.
“If all of our incentives were aligned, why did we all lose?” says Sabloff. “Early detection and treatment would have saved a life, freed up resources, and saved the insurance company money.I vowed to be a part of the change to make healthcare proactive.”
Sabloff founded VirtualHealth in 2012, which markets Helios, a does-it-all care management platform designed to reduce unnecessary ER visits and avoidable hospitalizations, manage chronic conditions, administer community resources for social determinants of health, and align care with national quality strategies and standards. The company, which is based in New York City, has about 150 employees. Two years ago, it closed Series B financing, bringing the total amount raised by the company to more than $25 million.
As terrible as the COVID-19 pandemic has been, Sabloff says it has pulled back the curtain on American healthcare and shown that it needs to be more proactive. Now is also time, in his opinion, to build on the advantages of digital health that the pandemic spotlighted. Sabloff unapologetically promotes his company’s platform: “Tools like telehealth, transportation coordination, connected devices, wellness apps and wearables, all of which have been part of Helios from its inception, have become exponentially more important. We are on the dawn of a healthcare revolution that was badly needed and long overdue.”
Sabloff says early on industry veterans were skeptical about his and VirtualHealth’s ambitions: They thought it was too much change too quickly and that legacy products were the better way to go.
He has kept his father’s watchwords in mind. “He would always remind me that ‘if you don’t quit, you’ll win.’ Nothing is more important than perseverance.” Customer service and happy employees are also keys to running a business says the product of Lake Success: “In my opinion, there are really only two things that matter — happy clients and happy employees. If you have both you are guaranteed success.”
Sabloff's advice to others is to stay focused, believed in your mission and brace yourself for rejection if you’re trying to break new ground: “Many forget how badly panned the iPad was upon release.”
*Eight of these profiles were published in our July print issue. Two more were published online.