Dr. Bob Harris
Robert Wood, MD, a urogynecologist from Mobile, Ala., had been handling continence lab testing for six doctors, including his own cases, in a busy OB/GYN practice when he discovered Bladder Health Network (BHN).
BHN, he learned, could send a certified urodynamic technician to perform studies in the clinic, using the most updated equipment and supplies available for urodynamic evaluations. The service partnered with board-certified, fellowship-trained specialists in female continence care to provide professional interpretations on every study performed. Getting started required signing a simple 2-page agreement; there was no upfront cost. Testing could begin within 45 to 90 days.
“The testing started to eat up a good bit of my time in the office,” admitted Wood, “yet I was skeptical because testing is very patient-dynamic, and I was hesitant to give up physically doing the testing myself. I was concerned that it might impact my ability to do surgery. Not so.”
Once Woods’ concerns were allayed, his practice group signed on with BHN in 2004. Since then, BHN technicians “have been completely invisible,” he said. “The nurse sees the patient, so we doctors can see other patients. It makes us much more efficient.”
Wood can now scan BHN’s UroAnalysisTM Report quickly, and view bullet points highlighting concise comments, and surgical and non-surgical suggestions.
“The brief summary of patient problems includes open-ended recommendations by physicians,” he explained. “I’ve never felt boxed in by the plan. I’ve never been afraid to put the report in the patient chart. It’s nothing for me to pick up the phone and call one of the network physicians to review a report. I didn’t expect such support.”
There’s only one drawback, noted Wood.
“You’re set on their schedule,” he said. “Let’s say a pre-op hysterectomy patient comes in three days before surgery and says, ‘oh, by the way, I have a leaky bladder,’ so unless you hold on to the testing equipment, which we haven’t done, we either do the hysterectomy or postpone surgery until we can get a BHN testing appointment. Other than scheduling issues, it’s been a wonderful addition to our office.”
Joe Washburne, MD, whose practice group—Women’s Pavilion of South Mississippi—joined BHN in 2004, recalled initial concern among the 10 partners about not having enough testing to justify the service.
“That was only at first, and BHN has been very flexible with the scheduling,” he said. “They went from once a month to twice a month and back to once a month until we established flow. I’m blessed to have patients come to me with bladder problems when I know many are hesitant to broach the subject. If you’re looking to drum up business, stick a questionnaire in your waiting room.”
Bob Harris, MD, a board-certified urogynecologist in Jackson, Miss., came up with the idea for BHN in 2002, and contacted John Spivey, an entrepreneur and IT guru who had launched several successful startups.
“I quickly fell in love with the business concept and with healthcare services in general,” said Spivey, president and CEO of BHN. “Bob’s expertise on coding and business drivers within medical practices was great fuel for my business development engine.”
The first challenge was to find ways to make BHN work successfully in today’s healthcare landscape, Spivey said.
“To grow the business, we started in our own backyard, getting more than 75 percent of the OB/GYN offices in Mississippi to participate in BHN in the first two years,” he said. “From there, we began to slowly expand across the southeast into neighboring states. Pretty soon, we had a proven business model that was only missing one key component—a national sales partner who could position and sell BHN across the country.”
Because BHN is dependent on “sales clustering”—selling the solution to multiple groups in generally concise geographical areas—assistance was needed to market the network outside the southeastern United States.
“You have to have local nursing talent and basic economies of scale for the service model to work,” explained Spivey. “This challenge has been with us from the beginning, but grows more and more as we expand across the country.”
Last year, BHN secured a national co-marketing agreement with Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE: BSX), allowing BSC sales representatives to have the exclusive right to sell the BHN solution in their respective markets across the country. In 2009, BSC tripled the size of BHN, which now contracts with roughly 140 clinics in 26 states.
As word spreads about the service, BHN anticipates another growth surge.
“The BHN UroAnalysisTM Report,” said Washburne, “gives me the extra level of confidence that I’m doing the right thing for patients.”