Starting Up Firefly Health

How Playbook helped this health-tech newcomer reimagine primary care through thoughtful strategy and design


In 2017, I was living in a seaside New England town, working hard to lay the foundation for Playbook Studio in between long bike rides on beautiful Plum Island. 

That Summer, I connected with Jeff Greenberg and Andy Ellner, two Harvard and UPenn educated doctors who had recently left top positions at Harvard Medical School in order to realize a modest shared goal: the reinvention of primary care healthcare. 

Jeff and Andy had assembled a small team of healthcare professionals and product developers. Their company, Firefly Health, was an early phase HealthTech start-up offering an innovative virtual-first primary care model. 

Around an office kitchen table in a Boston co-working space filled with wide-eyed millennials and motivational posters Jeff, Andy, and I had our first meeting. All three of us in start-up mode, we bonded over the idealistic, ambitious urge to leave high-paying jobs and build something new and meaningful from scratch. 

Leaving the System to Illuminate Better Healthcare Opportunities

In order to change the system, Jeff and Andy said, they felt they had to pull themselves out of it, a sentiment that resonated with me especially. I, too, had cut the cord from corporate America in order to maximize my professional and creative impact without the politics and red tape, much to the benefit of my overall health and wellbeing.  

In the HealthTech space Firefly was trying to disrupt, well-meaning attempts to integrate technology and team-based healthcare often had the adverse effect of inhibiting trust between patients and practitioners; a vital part of achieving better outcomes. Their convention-breaking solution was an efficient and adaptable virtual primary care model offering both remote and in-person personalized care. Firefly could shorten wait times and limit redundancy using the best teams and tech while simultaneously building those healthcare relationships that make patients happy.

When we met, Firefly had a bad logo (a firefly made from a generic red cross with BandAid looking wings) and a janky website. Jeff and Andy’s passion and knowledge were palpable––they just needed help translating this vision and telling their story effectively. My challenge was to capture the promise Firefly emphatically stood for in a brand identity and narrative that would inspire warmth and confidence.

We started with a pivotal Playbook Studio exercise, the Brand Narrative Workshop. Between the Firefly team’s quantitative healthcare research and the in-depth interviews I conducted with Jeff, Andy, and other stakeholders, we had more than enough material to work with. In the workshop, we looked at competitors and patients and thought about how to center empathy and responsiveness while maintaining an ongoing connection and a sense of immediacy. 

Building a brand capable of cultivating warmth and connection in the virtual world

These revelations helped ground our final Brand Identity System. This cohesive system spanned Firefly’s mobile app, website, and promotional content. The friendly, colorful logo and “Firefly will see you now” slogan evoke competence and inspire confidence. A realization of Jeff and Andy’s optimistic ideals, the new Firefly stands for the best team-based primary care can be. It’s a reliable entity with which patients can form a trusting, productive healthcare relationship that isn’t limited to any one doctor as the ultimate authority. 

As a testament to Playbook’s groundbreaking work, I was invited by one of Firefly’s founders to the 2018 Snowmass Medical Conference in Colorado. I was a special guest at the Andrew Morris Singer-hosted event, a congregation of primary care physicians gathered to think through industry challenges and opportunities for positive change. 

Our conversations at the conference touched on marketing strategy, influencing behaviors, and helping patients get the most out of healthcare. I learned a lot from some very talented people, and got to share my own perspective and experience helping healthcare innovators like Jeff and Andy step back and tell their own stories in order to create change. 

Now, as most businesses are struggling to sustain themselves during this unprecedented public health crisis, Firefly is scaling up. The company’s remote, adaptable model meets the unique requirements of care in a pandemic and, likely, post-pandemic world. It was a challenge and a privilege to work with Firefly and I’m excited to see how they’ll continue to grow while transforming primary care as we know it.

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