TORONTO (Reuters) - Jon Weiner’s hospitals are a far cry from what you might be used to. There are no lengthy admissions forms to fill in. And the service you get might remind you of a five-star hotel. The cost? No more than any other hospital. The catch? They are all overseas.
Weiner co-founded the New York-based startup OR International LLC (www.orintl.com) with the goal of exporting a higher-quality American brand of healthcare throughout the world, with a primary focus on improving patient treatment. In just six years ORI has opened the state-of-the-art specialty hospitals in the UK, Africa and Cyprus.
“Our first hospital in the UK has the highest patient satisfaction rates of any hospital in England,” said Weiner, whose company operates five specialty hospitals in the UK, one in Cyprus as a partnership with the American Heart Institute and last January opened the doors on a new $100-million facility in Botswana, Africa.
“Given how we are operated we can basically become much more profitable than local providers because in fact we’re significantly more efficient.”
As evidence, Weiner said that, on average, ORI’s UK-based hospitals take half the amount of time as other UK medical institutions to perform hip replacement and other joint-related surgeries. They also do close to 20 cataract surgeries each day, more than double the average UK rate, said Weiner. He also noted that ORI’s hospitals charge the same surgical rates as most other UK medical centers.
ORI’s Botswana facility is also completely paperless (all patient records are stored online), something Weiner estimated would eventually lead to considerable savings in terms of a reduction in payroll.
“The expectation is that when we’re at full capacity it will save up to 100 employees,” he said, noting it has the dual benefit of reducing the number of employees needed to store the data and lowers the chance of a patient’s medical information being lost. Weiner also said the main reason he is building overseas is the cost.
“In the U.S. you’d have to multiply the Botswana number by a factor of three,” said Weiner, adding that only about 2 percent of U.S. hospitals are fully digitized, mostly because “going from a paper-based to a paperless-system is very, very hard to do.”
In 2004, Weiner raised $2.2 million from friends and family and used another $9 million in debt equity to finance the first UK hospital, which ended up costing about $50 million. Last year Weiner said the hospital raked in $80 million in revenues. The UK hospitals are officially owned by UK Specialty Hospitals Ltd., which is a partnership between ORI and its various investors.
ORI is paid to run the Botswana facility, which is a nonprofit that is owned by two insurance companies.
Global healthcare spending in 2009 reached $4.7 trillion, according to the World Health Organization, and the market for specialty hospitals in the U.S. alone last year was about $33 billion, according to an IBISWorld annual report.
This portends well for ORI, if the company can keep streamlining costs without sacrificing patient care.
“In healthcare you can have superior economic results and superior clinical results at the same time and we’ve demonstrated that in the UK,” insisted Weiner, a Harvard economics graduate with an extensive background in healthcare finance and technology.
Weiner said it typically takes 18-24 months to train staff to ORI’s methods and make the hospitals as productive as possible. The added dimension of the language barrier and the paperless environment will likely lengthen that process in Botswana, said Weiner, but added he’s confident they will get there.
The next stage for ORI will be to perfect its business model in order to ramp up the number of builds.
“The next challenge is can you do that in a number of places at once?” Weiner said, adding he would ultimately like to develop a turnkey system to hospital construction that can be used anywhere in the world, so that “we could in effect have a hospital in a box.”