Kaigo Lets You Get Your Health Services Your Way
It’s no secret that the healthcare system is not right. It’s a business, designed to make money. And it just sucks that the way they make money is through the treatment of sick people. But people have to be sick first. So there are too many times when insurance companies and even some doctors take advantage of that. And the doctors who don’t often find themselves swept up or even burnt out by this system. It was with this in mind that former investment banker, Uzochukwu Chima got the idea to launch a concierge health service that now goes by the name Kaigo Health.
Kaigo is a “concierge style” online platform allows users to utilize Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) around the clock and free of charge from the comfort of their homes. These PCAs coordinate doctor visits, post visit wellness plans, as well as act as a liaison on the patient’s behalf with insurance companies and hospitals, making the health care experience virtually seamless and less stressful. Every doctor is vetted and we’ve obtained physicians from some the world’s best health institutions such as Mount Sinai and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
In our exclusive interview with Chima, he explained how this concept came to life, his own personal interaction with a broken healthcare system and the benefits of Kaigo.
Tell me how the idea to launch Kaigo began.
“I’ve always had these friends that are doctors. And when we go out for lunch or dinner and we talk about ‘What can we do in healthcare?’ And they were always miserable. So I finally called out a friend one day and I said, ‘What’s the problem?’ And about six years ago, he said, ‘Over the last ten years, I’ve had to work twice the hours to make half the money.’ No one ever goes into this for money, perse—they do in a way because they have to pay their student loans. But most often they want to help people.”
When I decided to leave investment banking, I started many projects but I always came back to healthcare.
In 2012, we started out a healthcare consulting company and we were able to really delve in and identify the issues and here’s what we found: insurance companies are a huge monopoly. And what they do is, they control how everything works in healthcare. And when your motive is profit, it doesn’t really go too well for things like health and education. But that’s the problem because all the moves are calculated as far as profit. So what we did was let’s go out to doctors and see how we can help the ones who are really having a hard time. Because the solution for doctors is that they sell their practice to hospitals. And that’s almost worst because now you don’t own it but you still have to work 24/7. So the solution is what they call concierge care, so what they do is charge a flat rate per year and give the patient unlimited access to them. So if you’ve ever had a bump or a bruise, most people just go to the urgent care center so they don’t have to wait two weeks.
With this model, your physician gives you their cell phone number. You have access to them by Skype or FaceTime and they’re able to connect with that physician. Because they’re not taking insurance. The only reason people tell you that you have to come in is because if you don’t show up physically, the insurance company will not pay them. The patient can still bill insurance but because they’re charging that flat rate, the patient has easy access to the physician.
So we thought that was a good model, we started supporting them but it still wasn’t Kaigo as it is today, until one day my son fell sick, and really, really bad. So, I was already in there, working with different doctors and hospitals and really thinking, we’re making a difference by helping doctors. Because as long as doctors are happy and free, the patient becomes happier.
But when Chima’s own son was ill, he realized the program he’d started had room for a lot of improvement.
So once my son fell sick, I actually went into the hospital, sat in the emergency room for 2-3 hours and the doctor came out and spoke to me for maybe…5 minutes and the whole time was looking at an iPad. And then they left and then I had to wait another hour, why? Because they weren’t sure if my insurance was going to cover my kid’s cost. So six hours later, we admit him and it was just the worst experience. Not only because we had to work hard and figure out what the problem was but it was just a horrible experience in terms of how the communication was going.
“We take it for granted. And I totally did even though I was working in healthcare, I took it for granted what people really in need go through, especially if it’s mental health or chronic illness. So I wish, at the time, I had someone who really was 100 percent objective. That really didn’t work for a hospital, just work for me because I’m busy, normally. Help me set appointments, help me figure out medication. Help me figure out a plan. Say if obesity is a side effect, someone who can help me figure out a workout plan for me— or nutrition. We don’t pay attention to it but nutrition is the cause of many illnesses. You walk into a hospital and they don’t talk about that at all unless it’s diabetes.
After the experience with his son, he discovered the direction the company should go.
“That’s what’s missing. Care. There’s no care. You’re just there and you’re a number. You hear a lot more about the digitization of healthcare and you can use these apps but you can’t give up the human touch. And that is what Kaigo is solving. It’s a human being that is very empathetic that is very understanding, has a lot of experience, they’re usually a nurse practitioner, and that is it. Once we made that change, we started growing really quickly.
So that’s Kaigo. That’s why we started it. And I’m fully, 100 percent committed to ensuring that one day everyone—whether it’s us or someone else—but one day everyone in this country will have a person they can refer to. You don’t have to understand what HMO, PDO, out of network—all that stuff. Why do we have to know that? Someone should be able to say, ‘You’re done. Don’t worry. You’re done.’
One example is I had to wait six months to see a neurologist. So I asked, ‘Why am I seeing a neurologist?’ And they said, ‘Oh, you might have a tumor.’ I’m like, ‘ Wait a second, so we wait six months to find out if I have a tumor?’ That’s the system we’re in and that’s what we’re really solving.
How did you go about getting doctors on board with the program because there is so much money to be made from insurance companies and then making sure that you got quality doctors on board?
Today alone, I spoke to 16 doctors. We don’t play around. We have a team, they narrow down the list. We look online, we don’t always look at a bad review as something horrible. We want to look behind the review and see what really was going on with the patient. Maybe someone just ticked them off. So that doesn’t always disqualify. We have a form of metrics we look at. And then we narrow it down to say five. It gets on my desk, then I can personally call them and grill them with questions. We go to their office, we pay them a visit, a lot of time unannounced—but we try to give them a heads up. And we inspect it. And they have to be dedicated and promise us that they are going to be service oriented, they’re going to be lenient on setting appointments, try to get them in as early as possible, and they’re going to collaborate with the other physicians so all the information is not lost. And then at the center of that is the personal care assistant that helps coordinate all of that.
What’s the incentive for the doctors? Do they pay to be in the program?
They pay to be in the program. And if they say we don’t need to pay to be in the program, they don’t have to be in the program. It’s not that much. We charge like $3,500-$5,000 a year. They can pay. They spend more money on billboards. Everyone coming in here is paying as a commitment to serve the patient. And it’s a privilege to then be able to work with a large number of patients that really need high level care. It’s usually mutual. The ones who get it, get it. We don’t have to argue and convince them. Because it’s a very competitive market, healthcare. They’re doctors everywhere. So how do you stand out? So if you can show how you’re a part of a larger team of providers that are dedicated to a the patient’s well-being and are willing to go above and beyond….
Some of them will even go to the patient’s house and visit to do a test if the patient can’t make it.
How do customers become a part of the program is there a fee for them to be a part?
Yes. So up til the end of the month, anyone can join Kaigo. If you’re an individual, it’s free. It’s just going to help you find the right specialist and physician. And then we would charge $20 a month for a health plan. So if you said, ‘Yeah, you helped me find a doctor, I’m so grateful but I really need help losing weight. I have all these apps but I really need someone to encourage me and really plan it out for me. So it’s $20 a month. You get a personal care assistant that will monitor everything for you and call you when they need to, help you schedule your physicals, all of that.
How do people sign up?
They go to the website, just fill out the application and the short form and we get their name and we give them a call. Onboarding process is very easy. We just need to know the background, your roles either for your employees or your family if you’re an individual. We’re implementing new software where people can monitor you remotely.
To learn more about Kaigo or to sign up for the service, you can do so here.