First Republic is proud to support medical professionals and their practices. In this Client Spotlight, one of our clients offers his insights into the health advisory space.
For many people, navigating the healthcare landscape can be daunting, no matter their circumstances.
After more than two decades in the healthcare industry, Better Health Advisors founder and CEO John Samuels saw the need for a dedicated resource to help patients secure the best possible care for their personal needs. We spoke with John about the health advisory model, his approach to creating a custom medical plan that works in concert with a person’s individual healthcare needs, and tips that anyone can use to evaluate their healthcare options.
First, what is health advisory?
Health advisory is a service offered by experienced and knowledgeable healthcare experts advising people on all aspects of health and wellness; in short, we guide clients through the complexity of the healthcare system, from selecting a healthcare insurance plan and securing appointments with top-ranked doctors to offering in-person support during appointments. Today, there are a few thousand health advisors nationwide.
How did you come to found Better Health Advisors, and what do you do for your clients?
I’ve worked in the healthcare industry for more than two decades as a senior healthcare leader in top hospitals within the New York City area. I was responsible for the operation of 16 emergency departments and a large network of urgent care centers. During that time, I developed relationships with doctors and facility leaders all over the country.
Several years ago, I began receiving calls from friends and family who asked for help navigating the healthcare system. I launched Better Health Advisors in 2016 when it became evident that I could leverage my experience and network to help people understand what’s happening with them medically, review their current medical care and usage, and create a custom and ongoing healthcare strategy to meet their unique needs.
Friends and family can be supportive, but they are not experts, and it can be hard for them to provide an unbiased opinion given their emotional attachment. As a health advisor, I have more distance from the situation and can provide a professional perspective.
How, specifically, can the Better Health Advisors model help an individual meet their own healthcare challenge?
The first step we take with a new client is to understand their current health status, future health and wellness goals, and how they currently use the healthcare system. This often includes an in-person discussion, reviewing of medical records and talking with their doctors. From there, we create a health plan that outlines our strategy and specific steps to managing healthcare. This plan can include information such as which doctors to see, what to do in an emergency, and the treatment options.
Our services are holistic and touch on every aspect of health and wellness. Not all of our clients have severe or complex medical issues. We have many clients who are healthy and secure our services to maintain wellness and to have a plan in case of injury or illness. We also work with clients who have mental health issues or addictions.
The time to test your health insurance is not when you’re in the emergency room or after you’ve just been diagnosed. We aim to take a proactive approach and review a client’s health profile up front.
What does that entail?
First, is that person matched with the right insurance plan? Take, for example, a person who travels a lot. We’ll want to make sure she has international coverage. We also want to ensure that a client’s insurance plan offers access to many good doctors and hospitals. We can’t predict if someone will get a particular disease or ailment. But we can review that person’s coverage to confirm there is a wide variety of highly qualified doctors available in their plan. We also review their coverage to make sure they can afford any potentially needed care and treatment.
For example, we had a healthy, active 30-something client a few years ago who wanted to forgo health insurance and pay out of pocket for any doctor visits or medications. And although she was healthy, we encouraged her to at least purchase a catastrophic plan that would provide her access to high-quality hospitals and cover any annual costs incurred above $7,500. She agreed and purchased a policy that went into effect January 1 of that year. Just three weeks later, she had an unexpected cardiac arrhythmia, was admitted to a large academic center and had an ablation performed by a doctor at a world-renowned medical center. She remained in the hospital for several days and then worked with the rehabilitation team. In the end, her ailment was resolved, but the overall medical bill was more than $150,000. Because of that catastrophic policy, she only paid the first $7,500. She made it through the experience both medically and financially intact and was able to get top care.
Can you walk us through the benefits for physicians?
Although we’re an independent company not affiliated with any medical practice or healthcare system, what we do helps connect doctors with the right type of patient. We know which physicians work on which diseases and conditions, so we can avoid situations when a patient inadvertently visits the wrong specialist. One of the confusing aspects of healthcare is the great overlap between specialties, and we help navigate that. For example, if someone is having foot pain, should they go to an orthopedic surgeon or a podiatrist?
We also act as an on-site advisor for a client, being in the room for office visits and hospital care when requested. This allows the patient the freedom to ask questions, secure in the knowledge that we’re there as a second set of ears for any missed information and can help bridge the gap between physician communication and patient understanding.
In addition to those immediate services, we help clients transition in care from, say, home to surgery and back again. Transitions in care from one medical team or health care setting to another are often where major mistakes can happen (often because of miscommunication). We help mitigate those risks while also creating opportunities for seamless healthcare. The result is often lower client and family stress.
What are some general tips that anyone can use to ensure that their healthcare meets their needs?
Healthcare can be complicated, particularly when someone has been recently diagnosed with a serious medical condition. People are often afraid and don’t want to have to go through the experience alone. That’s why we work with clients to create an eight-step better health action plan, offering clients strategies for how to stay healthy now and prepare for the future. Here are some tips (you can view the full action plan here):
- Identify a Primary Care Physician (PCP) – Your PCP connects the dots on your total health profile. Identifying the best PCP means finding someone you feel comfortable with and can trust. Everyone should have a PCP, whether or not your insurance provider requires you to have one.
- Sign up for the right insurance plan – A good insurance plan meets your current needs, including health, vision, dental and prescription drug coverage. The best insurance plan provides coverage for unanticipated healthcare needs. Navigating your insurance coverage is challenging, but it is worth the time and effort.
- Be prepared for emergencies – Plan ahead so when an emergency strikes, you know what to do, where to go and who to call. Make sure you know where the closest emergency rooms and urgent care centers are located
- Identify your health care advocate – Identify a family member or friend who is familiar with your general health and any medical, dental, psychiatric, recovery or rehabilitation needs to help you navigate the healthcare system.
As we like to say around the office, better healthcare doesn’t just happen. We create a plan for better healthcare, together.