It’s a massively regulated market. There’s plenty of red tape and fine print. And the way a consumer pays for services in this space grows ever-more-confusing the deeper we get into the 21st century.
Can you guess the market we’re talking about?
However — despite the regulations, the costs, the confusion — one of the most important shifts in this business has more to do with vernacular: I didn’t say patients in the opening paragraph; I said consumers. Patients are now consumers.
The truth of the matter is, patients have always been consumers. They’re just realizing it now more than ever. That’s why over 1 million Americans elected to travel overseas last year for medical procedures.
A digital platform that connects patients to doctors for non-life threatening, elective surgical procedures, PureSurgery launched in 2017 with a bold mission – to educate and empower patients.
PureSurgery’s 2017 pilot program was fueled by American patients seeking care outside of traditional insurance networks. We’re talking people denied insurance coverage for elective procedures, patients with high out-of-pocket liabilities and medical tourists traveling for surgery. Simply put, they are people willing and able to pay out-of-pocket costs, and they are looking for options.
“We found that patients were getting extremely frustrated by getting stuck in the funnel that has become health care,” Suckow says. “Which is really when patients are starting to turn into consumers and start researching, reading industry reports, looking up doctors. Finding a health care provider has become a process similar to buying a car.”
These patients are also looking for a higher quality of care. That includes (but is not limited to) priority scheduling, direct access to a doctor, and then — a seemingly dying feature in this industry — quality time spent with that doctor.
“What we found in our research was that patients really wanted the time and opportunity to ask the right questions to the doctor,” Suckow says. “We really empathized with these patients who are in pain or scared, and they just want time for a professional to understand where they’re coming from.”
PureSurgery can make that happen by optimizing a patient’s surgery journey, from pre-operative testing to travel logistics to post-operative rehabilitation. The company is committed to providing an improved patient experience, complete with on-demand scheduling, a free 30-minute Telehealth consultation between patient and potential surgeon, and all-inclusive packages through a proprietary network of surgeons and surgery centers. The entire end-to-end experience can be bundled together with one up-front, transparent price.
There’s no doubt PureSurgery’s magic is making the connection between patient and surgeon. In fact, PureSurgery does not take any fees from health care providers and is only compensated for connecting patients to doctors. And as much as a willing patient is part of that equation, the surgeons are the value. Suckow and co-founder Tyler Warmbold have built a world-class, reputable network of surgeons and ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) willing to create proprietary packages for patients around the country. There’s something in it for them, too: Physicians and providers expand their marketing reach, acquire incremental out-of-market patients, and improve their mix of payers.
Suckow is the right guy to lead this effort. He worked for Johnson & Johnson in a variety of strategy and product development roles over 10 years before switching to the digital marketing space as a director at Red Ventures.
He is an engineer by training; he holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University. He went back to OSU in 2011 to pursue his MBA and studied both there and at The Manchester Business School in the U.K. before graduating in 2013. His recent role as full-time entrepreneur scaling a startup has challenged both his engineering and business brain.
“There’s part of the engineer in me that’s all math where there’s a right or a wrong answer,” he says. “In this recent venture, I have to get more comfortable with the gray space.”
As complicated a space as health care is, there’s one thing Suckow is black-and-white on — PureSurgery is a people business.
“We’re not out to fix health care; this only works for a specific set of procedures, but we are 100 percent focused on patients and doctors,” he says. “I’ve worked with some incredible surgeons who are gifted with amazing hands; they’re people you would send your mom to — and we want to make sure patients are getting that level of care so that they can get back to living their lives pain-free.”