After a career on the business side of the medical industry, Steven Lash was intrigued when he saw a May 2006 story in Time magazine, headlined "Outsourcing Your Heart." He mulled over the idea, but could never figure out how to turn medical tourism into a moneymaker. "All the articles were talking about people who got terrific care internationally," says Lash, 50. "But these were all people who didn't have insurance. I didn't see that as a good business model because what's to stop them from traveling to buy their health-care on their own?"
Then, the epiphany: Roughly 17 percent of employer-sponsored health insurance policies now offer health reimbursement accounts (HRAs), which let employers pay into a tax-deductible fund that employees can tap to pay for health-care costs.
"When I learned about HRAs last year, I had my "aha" moment," Lash says. That's when San Diego-based Satori Medical was born. When an employee applies HRA funds to a procedure (hip replacement and cardiac surgery are some of the most cost effective) at one of Satori Medical's International Centers of Excellence, the savings are dramatic. "Say somebody needs a hip procedure that costs $60,000 in the U.S.," says Lash, who has set up centers in 7 countries including Costa Rica, India and Turkey, and projects sales of $4 million this year. "If they decide to have the operation at a Satori Center, they can travel with a partner and have no co-pay. Turns out to be $40,000 in savings. Everybody wins."
Keep an eye on:
Access Nurses: This is an up-and-coming staffing agency in a country soon to be starved for nurses: the U.S. It's also building a community of nurses through its popular sister site, nursetv.com.
Affymetrix: Affymetrix's "whole-genome" devices are the lynchpin in analyzing genetic information (a key market) and taking personalized medicine and prevention into the 21st century.
American TeleCare: The telemedicine market--video conferencing with doctors and specialists--is set to explode, and American TeleCare has this market wrapped up.
Eliza Corporation: Eliza's outreach phone system does everything from informing patients that their prescription drugs are available in generic forms to pre-screening for colon cancer.
Executive Healthcare Services PLLC: Patients of this health-care provider pay a monthly membership fee ranging from $150 to $450, effectively cutting out the insurance company hassle and saving everyone loads of cash.
Minit-Medical Urgent Care Clinic: Vacationers to Hawaii usually have good medical insurance, but the waiters, bartenders and surf-bum locals need a cheaper option. This clinic specializes in low-cost, high-quality urgent care.
MinuteClinic: This chain of retail medicine clinics is competing with Wal-Mart and QuickHealth to earn a share of the 40 million uninsured Americans who rely on urgent-care.
MxSecure: With a presidential mandate calling for electronic medical records, MxSecure, which transcribes records using a 24-hour Internet-based system, is poised for growth.
RadiSys: RadiSys engineers and embeds the chips that make home medical devices work so doctors can monitor vital signs remotely.