BY NANCY DAHLBERG | firstname.lastname@example.org
Ride2MD is in the fast lane of development, with a mission, a team and a road map to launch in a few months.
George Fernandez incorporated the on-demand healthcare transportation company in January, but the concept had been bubbling up. Most recently as a director at an insurance company, he managed the medical transportation companies.
“We were unhappy with the service our members were getting; it’s one of the top complaints of any Medicare/Medicaid insurance plan. One of the top reasons to leave an insurance company is actually transportation,” Fernandez said. “I got frustrated enough that I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to do it myself.’ ”
WE’RE TOTALLY COMMITTED. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.George Fernandez, president and co-founder of Ride2MD
The patient-centric Ride2MD aims to be the Lyft for healthcare, providing an innovative solution that eliminates wasted time and effort by streamlining the transportation process with real-time technology that offers complete transparency. Through Ride2MD, non-emergency transportation can be easily booked online; Ride2MD plans to move away from vans common now to smaller vehicles and more personalized transport. “We’re totally committed,” said Fernandez, who has held leadership positions at Simply Healthcare, IOS Health Systems and other companies. “Failure is not an option.”
Ride2MD (www.ride2md.com) cruised to victory in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge Community Track, taking second place in the judges’ voting and winning the People’s Pick, garnering nearly 2,000 online votes.
This is Fernandez’ first entrepreneurial venture, but he has benefited from both nature and nurture as the son of super-successful serial healthcare entrepreneur Mike Fernandez. “My family is very ingenuitive and creative,” George Fernandez said. “In our DNA is thinking outside the box and finding solutions for communities we want to serve.”
Before making it in New York in industries from liquor stores to real estate, his grandfather sold umbrellas at the exits of subway stations on rainy days.
“I think entrepreneurship is nurtured, it’s necessity, it’s timing, it’s wanting to create something that’s unique, and then learning from people so you don’t make the same mistakes,” Fernandez said. “It’s nature and nurture. I think you have to be a little crazy, too.
“Even my dad — when I first started, he’s coming around now — he said, ‘That’s crazy, everything you’ve earned you are going to waste on this.’ ”
Crazy George Fernandez left his corporate job and began working full time on Ride2MD in October. He knew he needed a transportation provider partner. “When I started asking around, everyone pointed to Raul.”
Ride2MD co-founder Raul Rodriguez is the owner of National Health Transport. He started his company about six years ago because his father was sick.
“Just like all the other stories, there were delays, one time they left him at the MRI, one time my mom said they were in the unit for a couple of hours and my father wasn’t doing so well. I took it upon myself to start a company to transport my father around — my father was my first transport,” Rodriguez said. National Health Transport now offers ambulance services as well as nonemergency transportation.
Rodriguez said Ride2MD flips the current brokered medical transport model in which transportation providers earn very little per patient. That encourages multi-loading up to 15 patients on a bus. “But it’s a domino effect; the first patient is 10 minutes late and translates to two to three hours late down the line.”
Every year, 3.6 million Americans are late or miss their appointments because of unreliable transportation, Fernandez said in the contest entry. “This creates poor access to healthcare, which drives the overall cost up.”
With that in mind, the company served as the key resource to Florida legislators who recently changed Florida law to allow transportation companies to use smaller, more economical vehicles for nonemergency transport.
What appealed to Rodriguez most about the Ride2MD concept was the transparency and the service. “With George from the healthcare side and myself from the transportation providers side, there is no broker out there that will give the kind of service that we are expected to give with transparency across the board,” he said, adding that the health plan and the healthcare provider will know where each patient is at all times.
Ride2MD is now a team of eight, including CFO Alissa Garcia, Roger Forbes, head of operations, and Julie Ferro, who oversees compliance. Fernandez said he expects to add 25 to 30 positions in the next 90 to 120 days.
THE INITIAL GOAL IS TO SERVE SOUTH FLORIDA, AND RIDE2MD PLANS TO OFFICIALLY LAUNCH ONCE IT HAS ACQUIRED ITS FIRST CLIENTS — HOSPITAL GROUPS, MUNICIPALITIES OR INSURANCE COMPANIES.
The initial goal is to serve South Florida, and Ride2MD plans to officially launch once it has acquired its first clients — hospital groups, municipalities or insurance companies.
Said Fernandez: “We are ready to provide the right service for the right client. We are building systems and process and a call center currently, and we signed a lease for 5,000 square feet for our offices. We are actively hiring as well … I think we are very close to having several hospitals and insurance companies sign up in the next few months. We expect to be managing half a million members within a year or two.”
The co-founders see South Florida as just the beginning.
“We just got back from Nashville, and there were significant health plans interested in our model to go beyond statewide,” Rodriguez said. “If we work hard enough, our service will pave the road for everybody else.”