Improve affordability in healthcare. The US has the most expensive healthcare system in the world for any high-income nation. Yet, there are still people in the US who will refuse life-saving treatment simply because they can’t afford it. People who go in for treatment walk out with five-figure bills that cause them to go bankrupt. We have to improve the disparity of healthcare costs.
The COVID-19 Pandemic taught all of us many things. One of the sectors that the pandemic put a spotlight on was the healthcare industry. The pandemic showed the resilience of the US healthcare system, but it also pointed out some important areas in need of improvement.
In our interview series called “In Light Of The Pandemic, Here Are The 5 Things We Need To Do To Improve The US Healthcare System”, we are interviewing doctors, hospital administrators, nursing home administrators, and healthcare leaders who can share lessons they learned from the pandemic about how we need to improve the US Healthcare System.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure to interview Alex Pollak.
Alex is an NYC paramedic with over eighteen years of 9–1–1 experience and was a first responder to the 9/11 attacks. He holds an MBA in Finance and International Business and is currently enrolled in a Master’s in Public Healthcare (MPH) program for Health Care Management. In addition, Alex is Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certified and has successfully spearheaded many cost-driven consulting projects within the health care industry. In 2011 while working in the finance department of a national ambulance company, Alex discovered a void in the market when it came to quality on-site event medicine.
Always the entrepreneur and armed with his business degrees and knowledge of the medical field, ParaDocs Worldwide, Inc. was born. From purely organic growth, Alex has taken his small startup into a nationally recognized brand with offices in six states and over 1,600 employees.
In his spare time, Alex also volunteers for his communities’ ambulance service and serves as the chairman of Ambassador Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit [501 © (3)] organization that supplies peer-based safety personnel to large-scale events and productions around the world.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into our interview, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and a bit about what brought you to this specific career path?
My career began in high school when I volunteered as an EMT. My experience volunteering as an EMT allowed me to become a paramedic to help put me through college and later business school, where I got my MBA in Finance and International Business. Even though I was always interested in medicine, my gut and head told me to go the finance route. However, when I graduated from business school in 2008, the market collapsed, and I took a job at a national ambulance company in their finance department. This is where I saw a gap in the market for medical services, specifically for events, sports, and the entertainment industry. In 2014, I created ParaDocs.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I was first in school getting my MPH, I was still working in the finance department at the ambulance company, and as a paramedic; ParaDocs had not gotten completely off the ground yet, but we were booking events. At this point, I was a third of the way through school, and ParaDocs had booked the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, which was extremely exciting. However, I had a massive project due the day of the show, which I ended up not turning in. My professor called me and told me that if I did not show up that day, he would fail me. So, I looked around and thought, “You know what? I think we’ve made it. This is the start of something big for ParaDocs.” I ended up dropping the class and not going back to finish up my last degree.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?
When I was in school, I had a professor who said that all press is good press and that same professor taught me that for your brand to be successful, you need to stick out. Make people remember you. So, when it came time to name my company, we settled on ParaDocs, a combination of Paramedics and Doctors. However, initially, I was thinking DocDics, Doctors and Paramedics. Yes, it was unconventional, but it was memorable. The name actually stuck for a while. I was even handing out business cards, and people just looked at the card, then back at me and laughed. Eventually, I settled on ParaDocs, still memorable but a little more serious.
Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I learned that yes, it is important to be memorable, but also you have to know your audience and customer base. The medical field is pretty serious, and your company should reflect the industry and tone.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Do one thing and be great at it. Don’t be a jack of all trades, be a master of one.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Because of COVID-19, we began expanding into other fields within the healthcare community. Now that everything seems to be slowing down post-pandemic, our regular work is coming back, but there is also a new emphasis on general health and wellness, so we are adjusting accordingly. ParaDocs is going to be able to accommodate everything from on-site emergency care to health and wellness care.
How would you define an “excellent healthcare provider”?
An excellent healthcare provider has empathy and is compassionate. People are often quickly dismissive and there is such a deep need for people in the healthcare community to be a little more understanding of their patient’s situations. At the end of the day, everyone needs to keep in mind that people are people.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put intense pressure on the American healthcare system. Some healthcare systems were at a complete loss as to how to handle this crisis. Can you share with our readers a few examples of where we’ve seen the U.S. healthcare system struggle? How do you think we can correct these specific issues moving forward?
Bureaucracy was the biggest issue the US healthcare system faced. Everything was a little disorganized at the beginning when local and federal governments were sending bid requests for companies like ParaDocs. This process was slow, and communication was spotty at best. In my opinion, this set the tone for how agencies handled themselves and their work throughout the pandemic. For example, the state of emergency has ended in almost all states, and even though the vaccination efforts have been great all around, now, because the laws have changed, people who have been administering vaccines (EMTs, Pharmacists, etc.) are now being excused of those duties, which wasn’t previously in their scope of work. Now, nurses are being bused in to take over-vaccination efforts, and there are just not enough nurses or doctors to go around to fill those voided spots.
It’s a little too chaotic for a system that is supposed to be a little more equipped to handle crisis management. There just needs to be a little more common sense from the bureaucratic minds making the decisions.
Of course, the story was not entirely negative. Healthcare professionals were true heroes on the front lines of the crisis. The COVID vaccines are saving millions of lives. Can you share a few ways that our healthcare system really did well? If you can, please share a story or example.
The best thing that came out of the pandemic in the healthcare community was just that, a community. No one was at odds or competition. Medical professionals banded together to get the job done to help the greatest amount of people they could. There is a lot of pride in the medical community, and all of that was put aside to help those effect by COVID-19 and to get the vaccinations out. I was honored to have worked with so many amazing people, and I hope that this is a community that will last.
As a healthcare leader can you share 5 changes that need to be made to improve the overall US healthcare system? Please share a story or example for each.
- Improve affordability in healthcare. The US has the most expensive healthcare system in the world for any high-income nation. Yet, there are still people in the US who will refuse life-saving treatment simply because they can’t afford it. People who go in for treatment walk out with five-figure bills that cause them to go bankrupt. We have to improve the disparity of healthcare costs.
- We need to improve access to healthcare. In some states, hospitals have shut down, and people are being driven by ambulance to the nearest hospital, which would have been ten minutes down the road, but is now a thirty-minute drive because their area hospital has closed. This happens more often than you would think and all over the US. We need to keep our hospitals open, especially in rural areas of the US.
- Patient Engagement. Some often forget that patients are their own best advocates for their health. I think the medical community can do a better job at being empathic and compassionate toward their patients. This will allow open dialogue between doctor and patient.
- Make medications affordable. The cost of medications is astronomical, and for more Americans, not affordable without health insurance.
- Make medical education more affordable so that the U.S. never goes through physician and nursing shortages.
How do you think we can address the problem of physician shortages?
For some reason, it is not cool anymore to be a doctor. I don’t know how that happened, but I think people are a little turned off from joining the medical community because it can be outrageously expensive to join. Your education alone costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and on top of that, your residency years are spent practically living in a hospital for next to nothing in pay. You’re working days on end, not making enough money to live, let alone to pay back your student loan debt.
One solution would be to lower the cost of medical education or find a way to quickly forgive student loan debt for the medical community. If we can make it affordable, I think more people will want to become doctors again.
How do you think we can address the issue of physician diversity?
Again, I think that affordability has a lot to do with physician diversity. If there were a medical education that was affordable to all, then that would allow for a wider range of candidates to come forth.
How do you think we can address the issue of physician burnout?
There is a reason why medical education is so grueling and serious. It’s because peoples’ lives are literally in our hands. However, I think being able to work decent hours without burning out before your residency is over should be on the table for discussion. Long hours, plus little pay will burn anyone out. If those two areas can be address and adjusted, then I think physician burnout will be on its way to being solved.
What concrete steps would have to be done to actually manifest these changes? What can a) individuals, b) corporations, c) communities and d) leaders do to help?
I think that change in healthcare policy would go a long way to restructure some of the key pillars of the medical community. I think this would lead to affordable healthcare for the patient and affordable medical education for the doctors.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
It costs nothing to be kind. Just be kind to others. Kindness goes a long way.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Visit our website: https://www.paradocsworldwide.com
Thank you so much for these insights! This was very inspirational and we wish you continued success in your great work.