First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?
Christopher Habig: We welcomed our first child into the world this year, a beautiful, healthy baby girl. My wife and I are so happy to be first-time parents, so it has been a truly blessed year from our family’s standpoint. Getting to spend more time around the house and the neighborhood has brought us closer with the people around us, our community. Personal relationships with those nearest to you seem to be an old-fashioned idea but seeing people walk the neighborhood and care for one another has been a happy surprise in the midst of a global, life-altering pandemic.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Freedom Healthworks
Christopher Habig: I like to solve problems. I really enjoy finding creative solutions that go against the grain of what everyone else is doing. I like to challenge authority and the status quo. Healthcare and the practice of medicine has been critical in my life, growing up in a medical family. Founding and leading Freedom Healthworks came about as I saw the struggles that friends and family had within medicine. Patients weren’t seeking medical care, and worse, they didn’t know what to do when they got sick. From the physician’s standpoint, they were being forced to see more and more patients in order to keep their offices open, and many decided to leave the profession altogether. This downward spiral wasn’t sustainable, so we identified the two main culprits of a flawed US healthcare system – the role of the government and insurance carriers. Freedom Healthworks was born when we realized we could create a subscription medical care model that helps physicians truly take care of their patients for a gym membership price.
How does Freedom Healthworks innovate?
Christopher Habig: We are changing the way medical care is delivered. Too many people confuse health insurance with medical care. These are entirely different services. Freedom Healthworks is a direct primary care accelerator that sets up independent practices across the United States so that patients can get real medical care without the barriers and inconveniences of typical hospital and insurance dominated health systems. Direct primary care is a subscription-based medical care model in which a patient joins a doctor’s practice for a low monthly fee. This monthly fee lets the physician serve the patients and lets the patients access the physicians whenever needed. No more barriers, co-pays, deductibles, or 3 week waits to see your doctor. Physicians are incentivized to keep their patients healthy and provide outstanding customer service.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Christopher Habig: The pandemic forced many hospitals and insurance-based practices to close. When they were closed, they couldn’t bill for any medical services, which means they couldn’t earn any revenue. These practices rely upon keeping their patients ill because they can’t earn income unless they have face to face visits with their patients. In the midst of the worst pandemic of our lives, the most experienced physicians in the country were being laid off by large hospital employers. Many of those physicians started looking back into direct primary care and independent, private practice.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Christopher Habig: We did make some difficult decisions early on. We gave up our office space and moved to a complete virtual. We had frank and honest conversations with our team about the uncertainty of the future. It was a scary time because I’ve poured the last 5 years of my life into trying to make a difference and help people get real medical care. It really reinforced how lucky I was to work with people who believed in our mission. They were with us no matter what. This was powerful because, without great people willing to work their butts off to make the company better, we wouldn’t be here.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Freedom Healthworks in the future?
Christopher Habig: I learned long ago to focus on the things I can control. There are so many things out there that can negatively affect you when starting and growing a business. We’re going against massive companies in an industry that doesn’t want to change. There are enough headwinds to our success that I don’t need to get in my own way. A term I use a lot when talking to prospective clients is “uncertainty.” I think too many people focus on risk as to the main hindrance to success, but I find that uncertainty is a better term because a lot of people can be successful, and there are things you do to de-risk endeavors, but uncertainty is with us every minute, every hour, every day. It is how we respond to the uncertainty that makes us who we are.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Christopher Habig: We compete with many pissed off doctors who don’t trust businesses in medical care. A lot of doctors start their practice by themselves and make so many mistakes that it cripples their chances. Others are successful at it, and I’m so happy for them. Not everyone will need our accelerator to start their business correctly, but I believe there are so many doctors out there that should’ve used our help. The market is maturing, and more doctors than ever are looking into this model. We were very early, and our patience is paying off.
Your final thoughts
Christopher Habig: This idea of subscription-based medical care hit me like a wet newspaper on a rainy day. It consumed me, wrapped around me. It was all I could think about. It was almost obsessive. Those are the ideas that I encourage others to pursue. The ones that won’t let you sleep because your mind is going. When I get to work with businesses, physicians, and groups that bring that same mentality to solving healthcare, it is very rewarding.