The Wisdom and Wealth Podcast

Navigating the Complexities of Healthcare: Insights from John Samuels, Founder of Better Health Advisors - Episode 83

October 03, 2023 Joshua Klooz
The Wisdom and Wealth Podcast
Navigating the Complexities of Healthcare: Insights from John Samuels, Founder of Better Health Advisors - Episode 83
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Have you ever wished you had a healthcare advisor to assist you or your family? John Samuels, is the founder of Better Health Advisors. John has harnessed his experience as a hospital director to become a personal healthcare advisor. Today John’s team at Better Health Advisors assist clients who are facing a new diagnosis, managing chronic illness, find doctors and seek better treatment.  Listen in for more about how his team’s holistic and planning first approach helps clients navigate the complexity of healthcare.  

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JOSH KLOOZ, CFP®, MBA
WEALTH ADVISOR

Phone 281.719.0036
Text 281.699.8691
Fax 281.719.0156
jklooz@carsonwealth.com

1780 Hughes Landing | Suite 570
The Woodlands, TX 77380

Music by bensound.com




Josh Klooz:

Hello and welcome in again to the Wisdom of Wealth podcast. As always, I'm your host, Josh Klooz. In today's topic, I want to dive into a conversation that is had more frequently than I think most financial planners and wealth managers would like to admit, and it's probably one of the larger stressors of most financial plans and from most families, and it has to do with health care and getting access to the right specialists, access to the right care for an aging loved one or a younger loved one or your spouse, and sometimes it can be financially material, but most of the time it's emotionally material, because you want to ensure that you're providing the best care possible to those that you love, and so, to that end, I've invited John Samuels, the founder of Better Health Advisors, onto the podcast to share a little bit more about what his team does in this space of managing complex health care situations and how he views this space and why he started the business, but without further delay. John, thank you for joining the podcast and so excited to learn more about your specialty.

John Samuels:

Josh, thanks so much for having me here. I look forward to our dialogue.

Josh Klooz:

Likewise, if you don't mind, before we dive into the finer points, could you just briefly introduce yourself to our audience and tell a little bit more about yourself?

John Samuels:

Yeah, so I consider myself a recovering hospital director. So in the last work that I did, I oversaw emergency medicine systems at large academic medical centers in New York City and I did that for 20 years and I left that world in 2016, an era that I call BC, before COVID, to help individuals and families navigate care. So I spent many years helping the hospital side around systems and processes and budgets and regulations and staffing and quality care, and too often I saw individuals, even with great doctors at great hospitals, not get great care. So I started a firm in 2016 that helps individuals manage their treatment.

Josh Klooz:

Was there a light bulb moment or anything that you're willing to go into situation-wise, where you're just like you? Finally, you know it started as an idea and then you're like, no, we're doing this now for this reason. Was there any moment like that that stood out to you?

John Samuels:

Yeah, there were two things that happened really at the same time. One was a family friend came to me and said that she was spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a treatment for her husband for a neurologic disease and wasn't sure if it was valuable or not, and asked me to do research on that. And I spent some weeks researching it and came up with the fact that there's no evidence-based medicine behind the treatment that they were giving, and then created a new course of treatment for him which the wife and the husband greatly appreciated, both medically and financially. And at the very same time, a friend of mine who worked in the hospital, whose job it was to help patients find doctors and navigate care, was in fact herself diagnosed with cancer, and she contacted me and said I know, you will know who to see and how to get through this, and you know. So people were coming to me and saying they want to, they want my expertise in navigating and quarterbacking care, so I started a company that does that work.

Josh Klooz:

And it's so hard. You interview doctors, but yet different healthcare systems are somewhat siloed, and so you're really in. If you're dealing with one healthcare system, you might. It's the equivalent of trying to interview three or four different employers or navigate those systems in quarterback them all. So it definitely resonates when you know the story that you're sharing. John, could you tell us just a little bit more about how you help individuals and families and where you see the most value in what you do? It sounds like there's some specific incidents that come to mind, but I would imagine it could also be project-based as well, is it not?

John Samuels:

Yeah, so we take a holistic approach to building healthcare strategies that mitigate risk and the work that we do. It starts with an assessment. So if a client comes to us with stomach pain, we and looking for a doctor to treat that. We look holistically. So we would look at who's their primary care physician, what else is going on medically, how's their mental health, how's their sleep, how's their nutrition, do they have the right health insurance coverage? And then we put a plan together for them that addresses all of these things. So for us, we take a broad approach to care and treatment and that allows us to help people get really good care and we are the quarterbacks and consigliars to them. So that there's one point of truth and one information holder who has deep expertise in medical care, who can talk amongst physicians, relay key medical information, review medical records and help steer and navigate the process.

Josh Klooz:

Did you share with us maybe an example of how that happens practically? Because what I'm envisioning and maybe I'm wrong is, you know, often I feel like spouses feel a little bit of pressure in a situation, especially where there are multiple doctors involved, that they have to be the recipient of all the information and they have to be the person right there on the spot to ask the questions. Maybe it's even, you know, a younger loved one for their parent advocating on their behalf. It sounds am I hearing you correctly, that you're doing some of that legwork, if not all of that legwork, on their behalf?

John Samuels:

Yeah, so you know it starts with our client signing a HIPAA form, which allows us to review their medical information, and you know, then, what it means specifically is, after we do our assessment, which includes do you have the right doctors, are you addressing everything medically, do you have the right insurance coverage and do you have a plan in case there's an emergency, we come up with specific recommendations, and we do that, obviously, in a holistic way that gives people the information they can use to make really good treatment decisions, and then we help execute that plan. So that might specifically look like us virtually attending a doctor's appointment, us talking to doctors before and after a medical visit to highlight certain things. Hey, I want to make sure, you see, that their potassium level is high and their A1C is also high, and it also allows us to do a deep dive into what's happening medically.

Josh Klooz:

Before. I don't want to derail a conversation, but you touched on another topic that, before I forget, I want to ask. You mentioned personal health information. If there's one thing that people are more guarded about than their financial information being compromised, is their health information being compromised. Could you talk through to our listeners just a little bit more about how the steps that you take in order to make sure that people's personal information remains intact?

John Samuels:

Yeah, so we have agreements with any client who we work with that outlines and expresses our privacy and confidentiality policies and standards. Our clients also sign a HIPAA form which does allow us to look at their information. All of our records and information is secure and password protected so that we hold their privacy in a very high regard. Then we have some best practices when we talk internally so that, even if we have an internal email, we'll use initials of a client instead of their name. We'll confirm with someone who calls us before we speak to them who the individual is and that they're allowing us to speak about their medical condition.

Josh Klooz:

John, the one scenario that comes to mind is, in the event of an emergency, say that you have a client that you're currently working with, you've put together a health plan for a couple, or maybe even their family, and then there is a health-related event. Could you walk us through what that process looks like? How is the client communicating with you and then what might be some of your action steps?

John Samuels:

When I was running emergency departments, one of the presidents of the hospital said you never know who's going to come into the ER. How would you plan for things? I said. In fact, we do have a sense of who's going to come in. I can anticipate we're going to get 200 patients today and 22% will be admitted and 60% of those will be admitted to the medicine service and so forth. There are things we can plan for. We like the plan for emergencies. That includes us talking to our clients about what's an ER visit versus what's an urgent care visit. That includes us giving our clients an actual book that they have at their home that outlines steps they should take in case there's an emergency. They might not be home, but if they are home, they have a plan. The plan would include things such as list information of who their doctors are and what they bring to the ER and what their medications are and who to call and when, so that before they go, they have a plan. Once they're there, we engage with the staff in front of them. That means we would talk to the emergency medicine staff and relay key medical, previous medical information. You might connect them to current caregivers and current providers. We're getting your primary care doctor on the phone so that they can talk about what's going on medically, and so forth.

Josh Klooz:

The other thing that comes to mind that's maybe not as slightly event-driven, but there's a A need, I think, in the marketplace, especially for a service that helps guide families through helping assess their aging loved ones and then make sure that they're getting whether it's the appropriate in-home care or the appropriate facilities that can support their medical needs 24-7,. Can you walk us through what that looks like with your company, if someone were to work with you?

John Samuels:

Yeah, so we're often engaged by adult children for their parents and unfortunately, everybody is going to have to deal with this eventually and so many people don't have plans and what we do is we come up with this, we do our assessment and then we come up with a plan and our expert team, including doctors and case managers and their practitioners, are in a position to come up with an immediate plan as well as future plans. So that might look like assessing whether somebody needs to go to a higher level of care, like assisted living, or when they should go to a nursing home and where they should go and so forth, and costs of this can be tremendous. So having a plan and having that aligned with the wealth plan is really in the best interest of individuals. And so we were referred a client a few months ago and the adult child said I don't live in Boston, my parents are there, they're in their 90s. If something happens medically, I'm not in a position to help them. So we engaged with them and did our assessment and identified that the mother's a risk for falling, the father needs a workup for nutrition and a new neurologist, and we need to make sure the home is safer from the environment of care and the parents weren't interested in executing on that plan. But we checked in with them every month and four months later, unfortunately, there was a fall and the mother fell and had to go to the hospital. And we knew her, she knew us, we knew her past medical history, we knew her providers. So we were in a position to help support her while she was in the emergency room and at the same time, we sent someone to the home to care for the father, because the mother was the main caregiver. So we were able to execute on two sides to support their care and treatment. And it was only because the son had the foresight to say if something ever happens, I'm not in a position to manage it, so that we provided wonderful support and guidance to them during this crisis.

Josh Klooz:

And I mean I think it goes without saying the alternative to that plan would have been the son or the siblings making calling each other in the middle of the night and trying to network their way to solutions for both sides, which doesn't sound like a great outcome. One way or the other, it sounds like a very stressful one, to be sure. The other piece that I've heard you mention is the ensuring that folks' health care, their insurance and their coverages are correct. Can you walk us through what you mean by that and how you go about helping people in that space?

John Samuels:

Yeah, so you know, a recent study that we looked at showed that 40% of working-class adults were inadequate quickly insured for their healthcare in 2022. And I think if you walk into a room and ask 100 people, do you know what your health insurance covers? You'll probably get about that If so. So I think that there's a real challenge in our country for individuals to make sure they have the right insurance coverage, and early on in this work that I do, I learned that you can't provide really good care and treatment if you don't have the right insurance coverage. The wrong insurance could cause delays in care. It could cause hospitals inability to access certain hospitals and doctors. So we work very hard as part of our holistic approach to care and treatment to make sure that people have the right insurance coverage and that allows us to make sure they get the right healthcare.

Josh Klooz:

You also provide these types of services for corporate clients as well, am I correct?

John Samuels:

Yeah, so there are many corporations who buy box of our time to give to their employees so that it will improve access to care. It will message to employees that not only do we care about you having insurance, but it won't do anything if you don't know how to use it or have the right doctors or get the right treatment. So there are a handful of companies who have wanted us to manage the healthcare of their employees and they've gotten great satisfaction from that.

Josh Klooz:

John, this has been really helpful and thank you for explaining more just about the space that you're in and what you're doing. I always find that it's insightful when I ask guests why they do what they do, but I think that goes without saying in this instance. But could you share with us to that end a recent case that you may have worked on that was meaningful to you personally?

John Samuels:

Yeah, we had a. So a wealth advisor came to us last year and said to us one of his clients looked terrible when he met with him. He was coughing, his skin color was bad, his fingers looked terrible. The wealth advisor said to the gentleman who's your doctor? What are you doing about seeing primary care doctors and getting a workup? The guy said I go to urgent care whenever I need it. I'm fine. I live along his way, coughing and really not presenting well. The wealth advisor came to us and said I'm so concerned about this guy I'm going to hire you to make sure that he's doing okay. The wealth advisor engaged us because he also knew that the individual couldn't get out of his own way and would not be able to put it together to hire us and figure it out and do it, and so forth. Later that week we assessed the individual and identified that he is a raging alcoholic who was at very high anxiety and depression. When he drinks he's unsafe. We then immediately, within two days, got him into substance use treatment care. Over the course of the care over the next few weeks we got his anxiety and depression manageable and stabilized so that we were able to get him a physical health workup. He was too anxious to do that. When he got the workup, it identified that he has a lung disease. That's why he was coughing and looked terrible. His blood flow and circulation was poor. As it was identified early, he was able to get on medication and treatment. We likely saved his life. A lot of that is because the wealth advisor came to us and said I'm so worried, I'm going to engage you to do this. Then we were able to do our thing.

Josh Klooz:

Thank you so much for sharing this story. It's pretty apt about what we're talking about. Thank you again for your time. Is there anything further that you'd like to share with our audience before we sign off for today?

John Samuels:

I think. Lastly, during COVID, hospitals and health agencies learned many lessons around resources and supplies and communication and data management. I think individuals can also learn lessons from COVID. That's to have a really good health plan for themselves. A strong health plan means having a good primary care physician who's accessible. It means addressing your medical needs. It means having a plan if there's a case of emergency. It means making sure you know your health insurance coverage and have a plan for the future. Just like the healthcare industry, I hope, learned lessons from a public health perspective about COVID, I hope that individuals also have personal plans so that they're able to get better care and treatment when needed.

Josh Klooz:

Excellent. Well, John, thank you so much for this conversation. I've learned a lot and I'm grateful for the work that you do and the people that you're able to serve. If there's ever anything that anybody needs, what's the best way for them to contact your organization?

John Samuels:

They can email me and that's john at betterhealthadvisorscom.

Josh Klooz:

Excellent, john. Thank you again so much for your time, wish you and your organization nothing but the best in the days ahead and I'm excited to connect again, okay.

John Samuels:

Thanks, Josh. I appreciate the time. Thank you.

Navigating Complex Healthcare Situations
Emergency Health Planning and Insurance Coverage
Corporate Healthcare Services and Personal Planning
Gratitude and Future Health Advisors