EXCLUSIVE D.HEALTH INTERVIEW WITH WELL, INC. CO-FOUNDER & CEO, ILDAR FAZULYANOV
Ildar Fazulyanov is Co-Founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Well, Inc. Well is now the fastest-growing on-demand healthcare platform connecting physical, occupational and speech therapists with healthcare organizations and patients. Mr. Fazulyanov was previously founder and CEO of Greener Equity and OptionCap, and before that, was a venture capitalist with vSpring Capital.
Well’s network of POS Therapists is now in the thousands covering over 200 healthcare agencies as well as a number of ancillary and managed networks in California. In select markets, the company’s network of therapists has now surpassed all other groups. Well works with providers that accept Medicare, workers compensation and other forms of insurance.
Q. Tell us about Well, Inc.
A. Well was founded with the idea that home healthcare can be done much more efficiently, in an on-demand manner. Our mission is to make patients the central focus of therapists and reduce the headache of paperwork, traffic and scheduling.
Q. How did you come up with the idea for Well?
A. I started the company after breaking my leg following a ski accident. I had surgery, and after discharge, I required physical therapy and rehabilitation, like many patients do. But through no fault of the hospital, the process was very difficult and inefficient. I was unable to find a physical therapist for four weeks, and by the time of that first appointment, I had re-broken my leg. The second break was the direct result of the extreme challenges in obtaining timely physical therapy care at home.
Q. What happened next?
A. I did finally find a great, trusted physical therapist, but it was too difficult and took too long. The hospital provided referrals to agencies. Those agencies all required multiple calls, messages and call-backs – without an online or digital solution. The agency recommended therapists who had uncertain schedules or who ended up being unavailable. I found out this was happening to thousands of other patients every day. While patients are sorting through agencies, days and weeks are going by without getting the required therapy services.
Q. That’s when the lightbulb went off.
A. Yes, through my own painful experience, I saw how important it is to enhance and fix home healthcare for all key constituents – patients, therapists, agencies, payers and other involved parties. I founded Well with that mission – making therapy services and home healthcare completely mobile and reliable for everyone involved.
Q. Tell us about the physical, occupational and speech therapy services you provide. How exactly are the services procured?
A. When one of our healthcare clients needs a therapist for one of their patients, they request one from our on-demand platform, similar to using Uber or Instacart. Our system finds and recommends qualified, nearby and available therapists and then matches the therapist to the job. And the appointment is booked.
Q. So, what are the key differences between Well and traditional home healthcare agencies?
A. Well is 100% technology-driven. We are completely automating a number of steps with software and digital solutions in order to optimize the activities that still need to be conducted by clinicians and healthcare professionals.
Q. Why is this service so important?
A. There is a huge shortage of therapists available to conduct home healthcare, and this will only get worse with the aging of our population. By optimizing providers’ scheduling, location and logistics – and by tapping in to the pool of therapists previously not available for home healthcare – we are addressing this therapist bottleneck.
Q. So, the core of your business is in-home therapy services to patients.
A. That’s part one. At the request of our hospitals and care provider partners, we just recently launched part two, our staffing service.
Q. What does Well’s staffing service do?
A. This is a new offering, and it’s the other key part of our platform, now very popular with some of our care provider clients. For example, when one of these clients is short-staffed for whatever reason – either on a very short-term or even medium-term basis – they now turn to us to provide an experienced physical therapist or speech therapist to help fill that role. Because we are an on-demand platform, our turnaround times are as fast as they need us to be. I see staffing becoming a significant part of Well’s overall on-demand offering, which helps fulfill our mission to lower readmission rates and the overall cost of care.
Q. What differentiates Well from other VC-backed on-demand healthcare service providers?
A. Our core focus is 100% on physical, occupational and speech therapists.
Q. With all the shifts going on in the healthcare industry, how does Well fit in to this rapidly-changing environment?
A. We know healthcare is arguably the most complex part of the U.S. economy. And we know we are moving toward a healthcare system based on payment for outcomes and quality instead of quantity of services. In our segment, because of the on-demand and highly efficient nature of our service offering, we are helping care providers and clinicians lower readmission rates and total cost of care.
Q. And home healthcare is a key part of that?
A. Yes, with rising hospital costs and the aging of our population, home healthcare is crucial to cost containment, while also enhancing continuity of care and outcomes. That’s why home healthcare is growing at twice the rate of overall healthcare. Our company is right in the middle of these shifts.
Q. Is most of your business driven by hospitals, physicians and Medicare?
A. A decent portion comes from the hospital, care providers and Medicare space. We have partnerships with a number of hospitals and hospital groups. But another growing portion comes from employers and workers comp. We now work with several large ancillary networks to service their patients with home therapy services. With our mobile platform, we can prevent fraud by digitally GPS-stamping the time and location of therapist home visits. This digital verification of in-home visits reduces waste and fraud. It also allows us to track, manage and optimize our entire network of service providers.
Q. How’s the progress?
A. Since launching last year, we’ve been doubling every month. The growth has exceeded expectations and really demonstrates our value proposition to all our key constituents in home health: patients, therapists, agencies and healthcare providers.
Q. You are West Coast-based today. What are your expansion plans?
A. We are launching with our on-demand PT, OT and ST services nationally very soon. We really are at the beginning of an exciting path in the home healthcare space.