Medical Director Profiles

Neal Kaufman, Canary Health

Keep Patients Healthy (And the Bottom Line, Too)

Howard Wolinsky

At Canary Health, a health startup in Los Angeles that develops online disease management programs, Neal Kaufman, MD, works to keep his vision stereoscopic.

As CMO of a company that develops self-guided disease management programs, Kaufman says he thinks and acts not only as a physician and public health doctor, but as a business person: “You can’t accomplish any of the goals you have for the population you want to serve if you don’t generate revenue and if you’re not around next year. Obviously, no margin, no mission.”

Kaufman cofounded DPS Health in 2004 and led its transition into Canary Health in 2015. He has relinquished the CEO reins—his son Adam now has that role—but still chairs the board in addition to being the CMO. Canary Health, which has about 20 employees and 80 part-time coaches who work with patients, says its customers include Kaiser Permanente; GEHA, a health plan for federal employees; and several state health departments. After striking a deal with Medtronic, the company says it is entering an accelerated growth period and expects to double its staff in the next six months.

Kaufman, 67, spent most of his career as a pediatrician at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after receiving his medical degree from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in Chicago. As CMO, Kaufman says he ensures that the programs are faithful to the evidence-based models on which they are built. “My job as CMO is to make sure we’re keeping the patient at the center—that our products make sense to them and to clinicians,” he says. Canary’s programs come from protocols that have been vetted by scientists, clinicians, and patients over many years, if not decades, he says.

The company’s attractive website highlights its “Virtual Lifestyle Management Program” as being recognized by the CDC’s Diabetes Prevention Program and touts other programs for chronic disease, stress reduction, and caregivers.