“I’d like to make it clear that this journey has been arduous,” Dr. Alejandro Badia says, minutes or so from performing his next surgical procedure. “I started OrthoNOW because of what I saw as a deficiency, and we just haven’t been able to have the impact that I was hoping for at the beginning of this journey.”
That journey began in 2010 when Badia’s entrepreneurial nature took the reins on a problem he figured had been ignored in healthcare for far too long. “The best analogy I can give is I went to medical school, so I learned about the eye. I could maybe do some sort of rudimentary eye exam…maybe,” Badia says. “But if you came to see me, a hand surgeon, about your eye, I would refer you to an ophthalmologist. For some reason, orthopedics isn’t given that level of importance.”
Patients he was seeing had sometimes seen up to four doctors before even ending up at Badia’s office. And while well-meaning, most of the diagnoses of “shoulder pain” or “ankle sprain” were completely unhelpful to both clinicians and patients. “I knew there was a better way to help the right clinicians get paid, save insurance companies’ money, and most importantly, get patients the right orthopedic care right away.”
From this need, OrthoNOW was born. OrthoNOW’s system and methodology allows patients with orthopedic needs to get help right away rather than waiting in an ER while their “non-emergency” needs are pushed to the back of the line. Not to mention, these patients would receive more accurate diagnoses from doctors specialized in their unique needs.
Badia knew he had a winner on his hands. An app developed for OrthoNOW, On My Way, won the 2017 Sports Medicine Technology Awards for its integrative design, letting clinicians see and learn about a prospective patient’s injury while they’re en route to the office. The OrthoNOW concept, from top to bottom, was designed to severely disrupt a portion of healthcare in dire need of redesign.
“Dr. Badia is not only a great surgeon, but also a great colleague,” says Dr. Ranjan Sachdev, CEO of Exscribe. “He is truly an innovator who cares about comfort and well-being of his patients. To design a walk-in entity where a patient can walk in, see an orthopedic practitioner, and get X-rays and lab work all within one hour is truly the definition of forward-thinking.”
There is only one problem. While everyone else sees the good that OrthoNOW can do, no one is willing to make the first move.
“Part of this is that it’s hard to change culture,” Badia says. “Many people who are reading this have the ability to help reshape healthcare, and believe me, we’ve reached out. I always hear of how much money in healthcare is on the sidelines, but no one seems willing to help us change the system.” Without the support of a major healthcare player, Badia’s self-funded venture just doesn’t have the influence or the access it needs to start making the nationwide impact he believes OrthoNOW can make.
Badia says OrthoNOW is a turnkey solution that has the capacity to make healthcare better literally overnight. “93 percent of workers compensation claims are orthopedic,” Badia says. “Why start with your family doctor? This is an entire step you could bypass. Not only does this cost less money, it actually improves orthopedic care.”
Part of Badia’s frustration lies in exactly what his flagship operation has been able to accomplish. “We’re not in a great location, we don’t have great signage or client-facing visibility that we should have,” Badia laughs. “But you know what we do have? We have almost ten years of data analytics that demonstrate that in some months, one out of four patients require a medical procedure. We’re throwing off a lot of downstream income.”
It’s not just about the profitability of the home location. “Search our reviews,” Badia challenges. “You don’t get those kinds of comments from unhappy patients.” To drive this point, OrthoNOW’s CFO is fond of saying, “The one thing you’ve never heard in the history of mankind is, ‘Boy, did I have a great experience in the ER last night.’”
Badia says it’s not his goal to diminish the role of the ER or urgent care clinics. He believes OrthoNOW would diminish the number of patients who are either made to wait long hours for unhelpful treatment or insufficient diagnoses. A few less people in the ER seems like it should benefit everyone.
Badia may be stymied, but he’s in no way diminished. “We could have sold off just our app alone, but that isn’t what this is about,” the surgeon says. “This is about bringing a faster and more convenient, common-sense approach to initial orthopedic assessment or care.”
If an organization with a national presence integrated the proven model Badia established, Badia is certain OrthoNOW would become a national player almost immediately. The options are limitless, but in the same vein of pharmacy chains moving into healthcare, Badia sees the potential for OrthoNOW being able to make the same significant impact on a community level. He’s already proven it. Badia just needs the chance to show it.