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Stories from Our Founder

Harvard Business School: Alive & Well “Inspired HealthCARE”

Jr at Faculty club

Hello Harvard Business school and fellow entrepreneurs. I am excited to share this message. In preparing for this article, I thought about the things that have helped form me into who I am today.

One of the events that helped form me is the Iron Man Triathlon. Now, I am not a particularly great athlete, but I was intrigued by the event. The event is crazy. It consists of a 2.4-mile swim, then a 112-mile bike ride, and concludes with a 26.2-mile run.

Before I started that event, I made a commitment. I decided that I was not going to quit. I realized that I could get pulled off the course if I didn’t make a “check point” that disqualifies participants who do not reach a certain point by a certain time. I also realized that officials could pull me off the course for health concerns. However, I was determined that otherwise I would just keep going.

What really scared me was the swim. I am terrible in water. I always have been. When I was a kid, my swim instructor threw us all in the deep end of the pool. Then, our instructor would have us tread water until we sank. Then as I was sinking, I would see a big hook come fish me out of the water.

Prior to the big event, I had participated in other smaller triathlons. I was usually one of the last people out of the water.  I remember on one occasion I was standing at the water’s edge and people were looking at me. In vain I thought, “I must be looking pretty fit.” Then my friend walked over to me and said, “Hey knothead, your wetsuit is on backwards!” Besides all these issues, I wet the bed until I was much older. Needless to say, water has always been a challenge for me.

On the day of the event I was elated. One of my mantras was “just get out of the water.” So, when I got out of the water ahead of schedule and realized I was still alive, the adrenalin was pumping. I jumped on my bike and I was so happy I could not throttle back. I was passing cyclists left and right.

Then suddenly at mile 6 I heard a snap and my back tire froze. I got off my bike to discover my derailleur had snapped in half. My heart sank. I thought, “Crap! Am I done?” A technician examined the bike and said the only thing we can do is remove the derailleur and cut the chain to one gear. What do you want to do?

My mind raced. I thought, “I have 106 miles left!” In addition, there are two major hills left. One hill is called “The Wall” and the other one has a nickname I can’t mention here– I would have to climb that one twice. My mind then found its way back to my prior commitment: Do not quit. I had not been pulled off the course by an official and I had not missed a checkpoint. So, I said, “Cut the chain.”

The technician cut the chain and placed it snugly on a middle gear. Off I went. It was a long day. Somehow, I made each checkpoint. Somehow, I avoided being pulled off the course. Sixteen hours later and eight pounds lighter, I crossed the finish line. I completed the Iron Man.

I believe I inherited the spirit of persistence from my Dad, the late Jerry R. Martin, M.D. My dad wrote his own obituary and stated, “I will make house calls to the end.” I remember a classic black doctor’s bag that he carried from house to house.

My dad loved his patients and his patients loved him. As a little kid I would follow him around and watch him as he would suture up a chin on the football field or examine a newborn at someone’s house. The cost for a visit to his clinic was $5.00 and it included everything.

My dad taught me a couple of lessons: He said that people will tell you what is wrong with them if you listen long enough. Dad also encouraged me to call patients the next day. When I asked him, “Why would I call them back the next day?” he looked at me perplexed and said, “You call them because you care.”

I am a medical provider myself. I have worked in primary care, pediatrics, orthopedics and in the emergency department. While working in the emergency department I realized that about eighty percent of the people I treated there did not need to come to the emergency department at all. The frustrating part was these patients did not have another option. The costs are staggering. The system is broken.

Over three years ago I cut the chain and went out on my own. Many of my peers and family wondered what I was doing. One of my supervising physicians told me I was committing financial suicide.

Despite the challenges, I remained committed to a better way.  I offered our community a membership-based, cash-pay medical model. Memberships start as low as $149 a month. Many couple their membership with catastrophic health plans. Now patients are paying less than they have ever known and receiving better care than they ever believed possible.

Our program is mobile. Instead of patients coming into an institution, I receive calls, texts, pictures and video chat. When needed, I make house calls to suture the laceration, start and hang the IV, or get the bead out of the kid’s nose. Specialists and other professionals have come to my rescue for consultations and referrals.

We began with twenty-five original members and currently have well over one thousand, five hundred members. Businesses are enjoying the benefits of a better model as well.

We serve people because we care. We serve people because we love them.

So, we are on a great mission. This is not about the money for me. This is about dispelling the myth that layers of administration and legalities guide our system. YOU are what guides the system.

I invite you to join with me in creating a health care program. Together we can succeed if we never give up and keep moving. All we need to do is decide. It has been shown that it is possible to offer the best health care people have ever experienced at the lowest cost they have ever known. I invite you to cut the chain and move on to a better model.


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