Nordic Global and its CEO sued for conspiring to steal pioneering digital health innovation


In a significant legal move, John Distefano, a prominent figure in the healthcare consulting sector, has sought leave to file an amended complaint against Nordic Consulting Partners and its CEO James Costanzo. The lawsuit alleges a series of deceptive practices that constitute fraud, copyright infringement, and intellectual property violations that have significantly impacted Distefano and his innovative healthcare software, Wellward.

McDonald Hopkins' member Stephen Rosenfeld is Distefano's representation.

“Mr. Distefano never wanted to litigate, but when Nordic claimed ownership over the commercialization of his innovation, he had no choice but to fight. We are seeking to file an amended complaint asserting claims against Nordic and its CEO for conspiring to steal Mr. Distefano’s life’s work and for misappropriating his intellectual property,” said Stephen Rosenfeld, of McDonald Hopkins

John Distefano, known for his influential and pioneering contributions to healthcare consulting, spent years developing Wellward. The software aims to revolutionize the healthcare ecosystem by unifying various components of data and connecting care stakeholders. The platform links previously disconnected health and consumer information and creates customized, personalized care blueprints for patients made visible in real-time to each person’s entire care team. The data compiled includes medical records, purchasing habits, movement as recorded on smart devices in real time, insurance information, pharmacy records, nutrition tendencies, familial history, socioeconomic barriers, and more.

Distefano said he saw the need to address inefficiencies and inequities plaguing a disintegrated healthcare ecosystem by helping individuals take greater accountability for their own health, promoting wellbeing through belonging, prioritizing care in the right setting, and making healthcare more understandable and affordable, and that’s why he spent years refining the concept of Wellward.  

“Wellward wasn't spurred by a singular 'eureka' moment, but rather, it was the culmination of years of learning, lessons and candidly, some frustrations, working with healthcare tech, paired with the aspiration to do better. The modern healthcare system has been incorporating technology since the 1980’s, yet four decades later we still haven’t figured out how to fully capitalize that technology investment to improve health and wellbeing at scale, in a personalized way,” he said. “This isn’t just to help those who are chronically ill, it is designed to elevate the health trajectory of each individual at every stage of their wellness journey by taking into account not only their medical data, but a comprehensive look at their life, the barriers they face. It’s not just about closing the care gaps, it’s about preventing gaps before they emerge and helping every person achieve their maximum health potential.”

The lawsuit states that Distefano was careful to protect the idea, but he needed a bench of programmers to bring the concept to market. He entered into discussions with his longtime friend, and CEO of Nordic Consulting, James Costanzo to help. Nordic, based in Madison, WI, is a global technology staffing company that has integrated technology for healthcare systems throughout the nation. Nordic is wholly owned by the nation’s fifth largest Catholic health system, Cincinnati-based Bon Secours Mercy Health.

Distefano and Costanzo made an initial agreement for Nordic to provide the necessary resources to develop a market-ready version of Wellward, with plans to jointly own and monetize the initial product. According to the complaint, the collaboration took a deceitful turn.

It is alleged that Costanzo misrepresented his intentions and authority to strike such a deal, leading to the misappropriation of Distefano’s software and confidential trade secrets. This alleged betrayal not only deprived Distefano of the rightful ownership of Wellward but also obstructed his ability to market and monetize the years of dedicated work he spent perfecting it.

“I set out to make a significant impact on health outcomes by applying technology which considers the whole person, the whole care continuum, and social and behavioral factors, but just as the dream was about to become reality, it was taken away,” said Distefano.

Rosenfeld said the damages sought in the case based on fraud and intellectual property violations are at least tens of millions of dollars.

“All he is looking for is to get back his innovation and to be compensated for the damage that the defendants have caused,” said Rosenfeld. “Mr. Distefano relied on his 40-plus years of experience in the space to develop a revolutionary innovation that would truly impact lives. It incentivizes healthy living and alerts healthcare professionals to intervene proactively, before a patient’s condition intensifies or before they need to go to the ER.  It also saves consumers, communities and insurers untold amounts of unnecessary healthcare expenditures, and it allows providers to guide patient care with real-time, patient-centric data.”

The lawsuit, filed in the Western District Court of Wisconsin, seeks to address the grievances, highlighting accusations of fraud, copyright infringement, slander of title, misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with business expectancy, violations of the Wisconsin Deceptive Trade Practices Act, conversion, breach of contract, civil conspiracy, and unjust enrichment against Nordic and Costanzo.

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