Shelli Lara thinks treatment shouldn’t end when a patient leaves the hospital.
That’s one of the reasons she launched Innovative Healthcare Delivery in 2012. The Las Vegas-based company has 70 patient advocates in more than 30 states who work one-on-one to advocate for patients and help their recovery process.
According to a 2018 report, Nevada is mired at 47th nationwide for active physicians and 48th for active primary care doctors per 100,000 residents. As Nevada works to overcome this doctor shortage, the advocates make sure clients get their medication on time, set up rides to doctor’s appointments and assist with other needs.
“We become their personal assistants to a point,” Lara said.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get the idea to provide this service?
I previously ran health care delivery efforts at the Culinary Health Fund, and I’ve been in the hospital a few times. You leave with all this paperwork, you get home and you’re by yourself or have people with you a few days. Day three is when the phone stops ringing, and patients are just left saying, “What do I do now?” They don’t have their strength yet, they don’t understand their new prescriptions.
A lot of times, educated individuals are taking duplicate medications. When you’re sick, you become ignorant. You should be able to become ignorant. When I become the patient, I don’t ask the right questions for myself.
How does the program work?
We touch base when they’re in the hospital and the first 30 to 90 days after they’re out of the hospital. Sometimes we engage 30 days before a knee surgery and make sure you have everything taken care of and don’t have to worry about post-operation appointments. It takes the weight off the doctor and surgery centers. Our goal is to become their person, whether we’re making home visits or telephonically. We make sure whatever you need is taken care of within 24 hours of leaving.
What’s different about your business and the care patients receive from hospital staff?
One of the secret sauces is we’re not clinical. I don’t know anybody who does what we do from a nonclinical standpoint. It’s really about setting up relationships. What was missing was the relationship between the doctor and the patient or the clinician and the patient because everybody’s so busy. The system is broken. We wanted to do something different, kind of recreate the wheel.
A shortage of doctors and other medical staff has reduced the overall amount of time needed to communicate with patients. Often, clinicians don’t have the time to really hear and understand what a patient is saying. Our business model allows for that time.
What have you learned about starting your own business over the past few years?
Las Vegas is its own country, especially in health care. While it is a big city, it has a very small-town vibe, making it easier to form relationships. Having those touch points are vital to any growing business.
I’ve never started a business before, and we started this from the ground up and grew at a fast pace. I think I have more gray hair than I did seven years ago. But the stories you hear every week of the lives we save, knowing we’re doing that from a nonclinical standpoint, is the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career.