How a $1,500 Start-up Changed Health Care
Jay Parkinson is on a mission to simplify health care.
Impossible? He doesn't think so.
His method for each company he's helped create has been simple: Use the plentiful supply of technology available to streamline, well, everything about the health care experience.
But it was his first start-up, a modest neighborhood medical practice, that launched the blueprint for these larger companies, and what some call the future of health care. And it cost him only $1,500 to launch.
"What I've done isn't rocket science, it's just business basics applied to an overly complicated industry," he says.
It all started in 2007. After working for years in preventative medicine and pediatrics, the then-31-year-old Parkinson had just finished a residency at Johns Hopkins Center for Innovation in Quality Patient Care.
"I got to see the back end of health care, why it is the way it is and why it costs what it costs," he says. "I saw how broken everything is."
He watched doctors treat up to 40 patients a day and have at least four staff members each to handle the nitty-gritty paperwork.
"It's around 70 percent overhead," he says. "It wasn't like this decades ago. Doctors served their neighborhoods, took cash, and didn't charge a lot because there was so little overhead. So I designed a process that went back to this model, looking at it from the patient's perspective, and just injected a little technology."
With $1,500, he set up a house-call-only practice in his Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood, serving only two zip codes. He created a website through Apple's iWeb that featured his resume, and posted his schedule on a Google Calendar so patient's could enter in an appointment time online.
He also opened a PayPal account for payments, and used Formstack to create forms for gathering patient medical histories and to create specific questionnaires for particular ailments. (Get tips on super-charging your documents suite.)
Whereas most practices deal with significant costs in office management, Parkinson's start-up costs went to getting his license and buying tools, such as an otoscope and doctor's bag.
The community's response was immediate. Within six months, Parkinson had 400 patients, paying him from $100 to $200 per visit. (Read more on mobile payment tools for business.) In addition to old-fashioned face-to-face visits, Parkinson used whatever technology was convenient to keep in touch with his patients: e-mail, video chatting via Skype, or phone.
"About half of my patients actually had insurance. They just didn't want to deal with the hassle of the process, so they came to me instead," he says, adding he typically treated patients for minor chronic illnesses such as asthma and acne.
He garnered a significant amount of press from local bloggers (to the tune of seven million hits to his website in the first month), and he was soon touted by mainstream magazines like Esquire as the man who could revolutionize health care.
"You couldn't do something like this 20 years ago," Parkinson says. "But we live in a time now where we can go back to traditional face-to-face business practices, but use technology to augment the experience on both sides."
Soon veteran entrepreneur Nathaniel Findlay, the CEO of Canadian software company Myca, asked Parkinson to help him build a savvy patient-doctor web platform similar in concept to his Brooklyn house-call service. They later founded HelloHealth, in 2008, which aims to do what Parkinson did on a national level via more secure technology.
Parkinson's latest venture is The Future Well, a consulting firm for health and wellness, which he co-founded with Grant Harrison in 2010. So far, he says, the company has worked on various projects for the Freelancers Union and Paris-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi.
Though he doesn't practice medicine anymore, Parkinson is still amazed at the low start-up costs associated with The Future Well.
"The beauty of it all is that the cost of starting The Future Well was around the same cost as starting my practice," he says. "I paid for the website, organized everything we needed online, and that's about it." (Get more advice on getting organized using Google.)