StartupStories: OrthoNOW Combines Business & Medicine for Healthcare Innovation

Alexa Schmitz

When an orthopedic surgeon and a financial whiz put their heads together, something groundbreaking is bound to happen. Once Dr. Alejandro Badia and Justin Irizarry realized that they had the tools and knowledge to potentially save orthopedic patients a ton of time and money, innovation of the healthcare industry was underway. In this week’s StartupStory, we reveal how these two masters of their fields joined forces to create OrthoNow, an orthopedic urgent care center unique from any others in the business.

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Why were you inspired to start OrthoNOW?

In 2010, the U.S. healthcare industry was undergoing a transformation never before seen in history. At that time, we had a conversation that encompassed two healthcare fundamentals; the patient and the bottom line.  With these basic principles as our guide, we created and activated our business concept which we named OrthoNOW.®

(Badia – Being a hand and upper extremity surgeon, had his focus on the patient and the waste associated with the traditional healthcare delivery method; people with orthopedic issues being directed to an emergency room and after an initial consult and a battery, often, of unnecessary and costly tests, directed to see a specialist. Irizarry, a Wharton Alumni and financial industry expert, had his attention on the economic power of the 42-billion-dollar annual orthopedic health care industry and the 20-billion-dollar annual urgent care sector.)

 

How did your business get started?  From the good, bad and ugly, what was your startup process like?

We understood that OrthoNOW could reduce both patient and provider frustration. The unexpected good was that by disrupting traditional delivery methods we were able to achieve the medical industry’s coveted “Quadruple Aim”: better outcomes, lower costs, improved patient experience and improved clinician experience.

We started with one center in Doral, FL. The concept was so new that we had to spend a lot of time and resources on educating the community on the benefits of OrthoNOW. The good was that we were doing something truly innovative, and once patients used OrthoNOW, they came back. The bad was that we had to spend a lot of time and resources to get patients in the door to begin with. And the ugly, was twofold;

1 – Getting the insurance companies to understand and embrace our model.

2 – Incorporating the complex regulations associated with the healthcare industry into the regulations that apply to business in general.

 

What niche or hole in the market are you filling with OrthoNOW?

We fill a hole in the market by offering on-demand access to specialized orthopedic care. This saves time and money. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a $671 billion injury impact per year on the U.S. economy. National Institutes of Health Researchers found that the average charge for an emergency room trip is $1,233. That figure is 40% higher than the average American rent right now, which is $871 per month.

orthonow

 

How much has your business changed from day one until now?

The concept has not changed at all, but what has changed are the very innovative ways we educate the market about our services, as well as the development and expansion of our executive team. This includes the on-boarding of experts in clinical operations, marketing, and business development.  There are approximately 200 other orthopedic urgent care centers in operation across the U.S., but they tend to be hyper localized. Today, we are the nation’s only franchised orthopedic urgent care center.

We also developed a state of the art mobile app that allows patients to pull up their nearest OrthoNOW center, see what insurances are accepted there, and even let the center know that the patient is on the way. Best yet, our app will call you an Uber to come pick you up and drive you to the center.

 

What are your biggest challenges in marketing OrthoNOW?

As stated above, our biggest challenges were educating the public that access to specialized care is not only available, but is available in their neighborhood. Also, contracting with insurance companies who also need to be educated about the cost savings provided by OrthoNOW proved to be difficult. Our most significant ongoing challenge is getting referral sources and insurance carriers to change long ingrained cultural habits so that we get the affected patient into our hands from the outset.

 

What types of marketing are most effective for your business?

Public relations, social media and word of mouth referrals are most effective.

 

What is the #1 lesson you learned since starting OrthoNOW?

Dr. Badia: The biggest lesson learned was that first and foremost I am a surgeon, and not a business person. I found that thanks to my patient-focused way of thinking, OrthoNOW is able to put a human face on the business of healthcare.   

Justin Irizarry: The reaffirmation that establishing a new business that’s innovative is tough and there are a million problems along the way. There will be infinite opportunities to veer off course if you allow it, and there will be a lot of naysayers along the way. You must stay focused, and be really good at saying “no” to opportunities that don’t meet your vision of the business.

For both of us, the greatest lesson learned was to listen to our hunches and follow our gut instincts.

 

If you won $50,000, how would you invest it in your business?

If we won $50,000 we would invest it in the development of our executive team, and add a professional whose sole responsibility would be to work with insurance companies. We would also allocate funds to further develop our mobile app to easily allow telemedicine capabilities.

 

What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

If you’re getting started, be passionate and committed to your concept, especially if what you are doing is something innovative and new. There will be a lot of people that will doubt whether you can be successful. Usually, those people are the ones with the most to lose. Don’t listen to them.  Surround yourself with others who are smarter than you and with those who have a different skill set so that you can create a synergistic team.

 

What can we expect from OrthoNOW in the next year?

We are very optimistic about 2017 and enter this new year with enthusiasm. We will expand in major markets with the help of master franchisee partners that will be installing 10 – 20 centers per market. By doing so, we can provide more patient care while simultaneously decreasing the cost of delivery.

We will focus on growing our relationships with insurance companies and expand our ambulatory care service line. Like the rest of the nation, we will closely follow any reform or repeal of the Affordable Care Act so that we can rapidly incorporate those modifications into our business model.

 

To learn more about OrthoNow, please visit OrthoNOWCare.com.

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