If you've been following the health care debate in Washington at all, you know that the recently-passed reform bill is sparking lots of controversy.
Insurance exchanges, pre-existing conditions, Medicare payment reductions, and ballooning health care costs have all garnered headlines in recent months.
However, one aspect of the legislation which didn't receive much press is the initiative to incorporate information technology advances into the health care field. That's probably because it was arguably the least contentious part of the thousand-plus page bill.
But Wolf Shlagman was focusing on that problem long before the nation was consumed by the health care debate. And once again, an entrepreneur trumped government action when it came to fulfilling an important health care need.
Shlagman co-founded a company called Consult A Doctor, which bills itself as a "telemedicine provider." As the phrase implies, Shlagman's firm oversees a service which offers consumers round-the-clock access to physicians via telephone or secure e-mail. So while Consult A Doctor doesn't deal in "house calls," it does bring one aspect of medical care into the 21st century.
In 2007, the National Center for Policy Analysis revealed that 55% of ER visits by patients were not for emergencies. Instead, Americans were utilizing hospital emergency rooms for their primary care needs, which drove up costs.
Shlagman had actually begun working on this problem five years earlier, when he created his business model for what would become Consult A Doctor. After some extensive research and development, Shlagman teamed up with Elan Shanker to launch the company.
Consult A Doctor does not market its services to consumers directly; rather, its clients consist of health care plans, benefit providers, self-insured groups, brokers, and third-party administrators. The company has assembled a nationwide network of doctors who can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to provide basic care, medical advice, and even drug prescriptions in some cases.
In 2009, Shlagman and Shanker attended the Florida Venture Capital Conference in hopes of securing investor funds to expand its operations. After they submitted their business plan, Consult A Doctor was one of the few businesses that was chosen to give a live presentation to the conference attendees.
As a result, the two men were introduced to Morgenthau Venture Partners, who subsequently led a $5 million round of Series A financing. Shlagman says that even though Consult A Doctor had received interest from multiple sources, they chose Morgenthau because they felt that the firm understood their market niche and offered a strong slate of partners with experience in health technology.
With funding secured, Shlagman says his company will target key markets such as managed care plans. Consult A Doctor will also expand its roster of services to include such offerings as pharmacy services, specialist consults, lab service requests, and telemonitoring of patients.
However the federal health care debate shakes out, Shlagman is confident that there will always be a need for his company's services. He feels that Consult A Doctor is positioned to help decrease ER visits and increase accessibility to basic health care in the U.S. And all of this can be done while reducing medical costs in the long run.
And he accomplished all this without any input from politicians.