By Penelope Carlevato, R.N.
Three firemen/paramedics decided to make the transition of starting a business in the healthcare industry and, 10 years later, are still friends running a very successful company. While serving the community with non-medical assistance in a wide variety of ways, their unique approach to assisting people is bypassing inconvenience, saving family travel, and preserving comfort and tranquility. Their concept – and their friendly ethos – has resulted in success and many happy patients and families.
The three owners of 1st Call Home Healthcare, Bob Mlynarek, Mike Barnhard and Jason Groth, met in 1998 at the Harrison Township Fire Department and became good friends. They worked well together, and before getting into the healthcare field, they formed a basement remodeling business. Then the housing crisis hit Michigan in 2008, and the automotive industry nearly collapsed. Their venture abruptly came to a halt; remodeling 25 basements a year dropped to zero.
1st Call Home Healthcare was born in 2010 when the three partners launched a non-medical home care service to provide services that would allow the elderly to have safe and comfortable lives in their own homes, rather than being obliged to move into assisted living facilities. The three entrepreneurs recognized the home-crisis situations facing many of the seniors in their community. An aging population wants to stay safely in their own homes, and many of them needed help to make that happen.
Bob retired after 19 years on the job as a fireman/paramedic to be the chief marketing officer and full-time co-owner of 1st Call. Jason and Mike continue to work their 24-hour shifts at Harrison Township Fire Department, and join Bob in the day-to-day operations on their days off. They are both in their 23rd year with the Fire Department, and continue to see the need for quality and expertise in caring for patients in their homes. They plan on joining Bob fulltime in a couple years. Each of them shares the ownership equally.
In 2015, they saw the need for added medical services, and began providing full-service skilled nursing care and auto-injury care. The trio now has more than 200 employees and a Cloud-based computerized system that allows their staff to access the files of each patient from their personal computers/tablets/phones electronically. This innovation allows 1st Call to provide continuous full-service care to all their clients.
As first responders with more than 20 years of assisting patients at the onset of an injury, the men began to wonder what happens to those patients after they have been stabilized, loaded into ambulances and taken to hospitals. They realized that they spent only 20 to 30 minutes with each patient. What happens when patients leave their care? The patient might be in the hospital for weeks or months, and then transferred to a rehab center, where it may be many more months before the patient is actually able to go home. The patients’ lives might have changed dramatically, perhaps forever, and simple tasks that might have only taken a few minutes before the accident could now take hours.
1st Call became aware of the possibility that their business could extend the life-line to the outside world for many of these patients. 1st Call’s caretakers can, and do, provide more than just 24-hour home care—they become like part of the family. Patients do much better when they have consistent care by the same team on a daily basis.
The company recognizes that home healthcare is still a cottage-type industry that is uniquely positioned to offer the best care in the region. Because they provide full-service treatment from a unified source, they are better equipped to watch for conditions in their patients that might need additional attention. When medical services are combined and provided by the same team, very little can fall through the cracks.
The caretakers know their patients. 1st Call’s director of nursing teaches the staff to recognize changes in patients’ conditions and bring such needs to the attention of the patient’s doctor, avoiding an unnecessary trip to the Emergency Room.
Many of 1st Call’s staff have personal experience with home healthcare, so they possess genuine care and concern for their clients. Staff members are respected and appreciated, and usually work in this environment because of the flexibility the job offers. Many have family obligations that must fit in with the hours needed both by the employee and the patients. “They are never told they are employees and have to do a certain job,” explained Bob. “We are like a family—not just the staff, but also the clients we care for.”
When a new patient is admitted to the system, the staff is informed and considers whether it is a good fit for them. Can they provide the care needed? Do the hours work for them? What is their proximity to the patient’s location? 1st Call is proud of the staff they employ and the teamwork shown by all members. The owners and staff recognize that it’s not just a business. It is who they are.
The three owners are family men with children, but all three partners are committed to this entire endeavor. They are extremely proud of their company’s progress, and the ability to help a great number of many patients and their families during difficult times.
Success will only continue to grow for 1st Call Home Healthcare as the business continues responding to increased needs for private home care. Technology will play a large part in caring not only for the aging population but also for children and adults.
Specifically, a big concern in healthcare today, and in the future, is to do everything possible to avoid readmission to the hospital after discharge. Many patients are discharged from the hospital and have no one to watch them. The new transitional care program to be implemented by 1st Call will electronically monitor vital signs from patients’ homes. It will track blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar and pulse oximetry, all with Bluetooth technology and physician involvement.
1st Call has five distinct areas of care available:
- Non-medical senior care in the home
- Skilled nursing care at home for high acuity patients
- Auto injury—helping the patient back on the road to recovery
- Mental health at home
- Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, language
Having all its services under one roof allows 1st Call Home Healthcare to build relationships within the community and offer the best care available to all their patients. Referrals by current and previous clients are their primary source of new business, with requests and recommendations from area hospitals as a close second.
Bob, Jason and Mike conduct their business with the conviction that quality patient care, attention to detail, and recruiting staff who really care for their patients, will continue to be the hallmark of 1st Call Home Healthcare. Their business will continue to grow as an increasing number of seniors need home care, and the needs of the dependent community grow more complex.