Tada the baby arrives

September 21, 2012

Patrick Spain

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Welcome to First Stop Health (FSH). We have been testing our online and on-call (that means you can call our doctors anytime) health concierge service for the past three months. Today, with a good deal of learning under our belts, we are launching with the intention of providing Americans with a fast, cost-effective and convenient supplement to their existing healthcare options.

The goal of my blog is to explain to our members and other interested parties what is going on with First Stop Health and in our industry in general. This is a blog about the business side of the healthcare industry.

Our goal at First Stop Health is to get our members from a minor or major healthcare issue to a solution as quickly and efficiently as possible. My partner Mark Friedman and I started talking about this five years ago. Mark is a board-certified ER doc who is also a serial entrepreneur. I am a serial entrepreneur in the information space. I started and ran three companies "“ Hoover's Online, HighBeam Research and Newser "“ before starting FSH.

For many years I had no interest in healthcare and wanted to stay as far away from it as possible. As my family and I were blessed with generally good health, it seemed like a dark, dysfunctional land that, frankly, smelled bad. And I wanted no part of it.

Then my wife became ill with a largely unstudied, almost always fatal and rare form of cancer. I dropped everything and started researching her disease and treatments. Mark advised me, as did many other friends and friends of friends, as I immersed myself in research articles that were not only written in an entirely foreign language (Medicalese) but used a grammar and vocabulary that was entirely non-intuitive "“ "positive" is bad and "negative" is good. In the course of navigating the healthcare system, I was introduced to health advocates who explained a lot about how things worked. They helped my wife find treatment from the very best doctors and facilities for her disease. Through this process and my wife's indefatigable will, she survived five times longer than average for her condition.

Mark saw another side to the problem. As an ER doctor, he saw many patients who had no business being in an emergency room because their conditions were minor or not acute. Yes, they needed help, but with the average cost of an ER visit approaching $2,000 (it was $1,318 in 2009, the last year for which reliable numbers are available) and the average wait at 6 hours in 2009, this was an inexpensive and inconvenient process. And there were no solutions for some problems, such as how to get a prescription refilled on Sunday when traveling away from home or to figure out whether or not to permit a seemingly pointless treatment of a loved one in the hospital.

So Mark and I put our issues together and came up with a program that provides doctors on round-the-clock standby to advise, diagnosis and prescribe (sorry, we can't help with Viagra and DEA listed drugs) our members. Additionally, First Stop Health retains patient advocates who can help develop an approach to seeking treatment for a major disease, find a qualified second opinion, or help convince insurance companies that a particular treatment should be covered. We surround these two core services with patient-friendly tools and content that will help our members locate doctors near them, understand what the doctors and advocates are telling them, and keep up on developments about their condition with a customized news feed.

We'd love to hear what you like and don't like about our service. For now we are just guessing "“ we hope at least somewhat intelligently "“ at what you need and value. Ultimately it will be what our members want that will determine what First Stop Health becomes.

Originally published Sep 21, 2012 5:00:45 AM.