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Leaders in our region's healthcare

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Healthcare is changing in our region, and EBO MD is one healthcare provider at the forefront of development. Tony Thompson and Josh Stephens are the founders of EBO MD, a Direct Primary Care clinic system that eliminates insurance companies and hospital chargemasters, with locations in Cape Girardeau and Jackson, Missouri.

They sat down for a conversation about the way innovative technology has the potential to provide wider access to healthcare in our region, and the specific solutions theyíre creating to meet the needs of the southeast Missouri community. This conversation has been edited for space and flow.

You were both entrepreneurs before working together. You know the ups and downs of the process, and what it takes for an entrepreneur to succeed. What drives you both to continue to invest in healthcare as entrepreneurs?

Tony Thompson, CEO of EBO MD

TONY THOMPSON:

What drives me the most is the good that it does in the community and the patients who are able to access healthcare now who maybe didnít have access to healthcare before. Now without a trip to the emergency room, theyíre able to access healthcare affordably, as well as put food on the table, pay their utility bills, pay their rent ó itís a quality of life every human being deserves.

JOSH STEPHENS:

When I first looked into this when Tony approached me about it, it was more of a business decision. I got more in-depth with it and saw how expensive healthcare was in this region, and it became a passion for me, just like it is for Tony.

What brought about EBO MD, how does it work and how do employers benefit?

THOMPSON:

I saw a need here in the community. Everybody saw a need; nobody knew how to approach it. Itís not that I had a secret recipe ó I had spent years in the pharmaceutical industry. I started a toxicology lab, and then had an opportunity to offer Telehealth services to people in the community, to businesses. From there, the need to grow into an actual clinic arose, and weíve been building upon needs that have come to us, whether it be from businesses or individuals, since. Businesses tend to extremely benefit from what we offer, in the fact that we can save them 40-90 percent on their healthcare costs. Thatís a huge impact.

Josh Stephens, CSO of EBO MD

STEPHENS:

EBO MD is a membership clinic, so just like a gym membership, you pay a monthly fee and you can come anytime you need for primary healthcare. If you look on the whiteboard of just about every employer in this area, retention is a concern ó theyíre trying to always keep their employees. If youíre giving all of your employees an EBO MD membership, itís like giving all of your employees a raise. Itís not a blanket raise by any means, but if thereís a prescription that costs $300 for that employee and we can get it for $100, then theyíre saving $200 a month off of their own bills.

We know the healthcare industry is changing. How do you think healthcare will change in the next three to five years?

THOMPSON:

I think in the next three to five years, weíre going to see a lot of changes. The American Medical Association even says thereís going to be a huge shortage of primary health physicians, especially in the rural areas, and I think weíre going to have to look at the aging demographics with the baby boomers. In rural areas, I think we will have to lean on some new technologies to access care. Whatever that looks like, weíre going to have to be innovative and creative and look on the front side of things.

STEPHENS:

If you look in the waiting room at most of the doctorís offices, thereís three- to four-hour wait times. The patients are going to have to get into a virtual option, and thatís what weíve been working on. You donít have to leave your home, you can do it after hours and things like that, because there are only so many hours in the workday.

What are some specifics on how you see technology changing access to healthcare?

THOMPSON:

We currently have Skype, we have text messages, we obviously have the telephone. I think weíre going to have to look at a way to combine all of those, as well as look at the medical technology thatís available and wrap that all into a nice, pretty bundle. As EBO MD goes forward, we have some plans to move in that direction that I think will be game-changers to primary healthcare in southeast Missouri.

STEPHENS:

It started with Telehealth. Telehealth is giving you 24/7 access to primary healthcare via your phone, Skype, things like that. I think the next generation of this is going to be virtual care where you have a nurse or a PA that is hands-on with a patient, and the doctor will be virtual.

What other projects can you tell us about?

THOMPSON:

We want to be innovators, we want to be leaders here in southeast Missouri. Recent opportunity to bring something to market is in the form of Brightstone Medical. Itís now open at 36 Doctors Park, Suite 2, in Cape Girardeau. It is a medication-assisted treatment program for patients that have fallen into the problems around the opioid crisis. Maybe they have been over-prescribed, theyíve become addicted to their painkillers, and they want to come down off of it but they donít know how. They have to do something different from the options that have been available to them in the past. So thatís one of our most recent offerings.

STEPHENS:

Weíll be launching Missouri Menís Health. We have a permanent or semi-permanent solution that is non-surgical, non-needle, and itís what people are needing for help with ED.

Your current roster of companies is primarily centered on the healthcare industry. Can you tell us whatís been the most rewarding about pursuing these projects?

THOMPSON:

I think itís providing real answers, real solutions for our patients. Itís the ones they need, the ones theyíre looking for and doing it all while being very affordable, as well.

STEPHENS:

I think it will make a difference. The patients are noticing, and youíve got the business owners that are noticing. Theyíve got the equipment that they didnít have the money for before because everything was going towards insurance premiums. Weíve been able to save companies 40-90 percent off their healthcare dollars just by educating them on how to utilize their EBO MD membership with their existing healthcare, or transitioning some of their healthcare to EBO MD.

Tell us how you keep going as entrepreneurs. Balancing these businesses must be difficult. How do you do it?

THOMPSON:

Sometimes it gets a little crazy. But really, all of the companies that we have brought about, the technologies that weíve sought out and are bringing to the market, they really all have a synergistic effect with each other. So, itís pretty simple, in all honesty, to keep them all together. While it looks like a lot of moving parts, and there are a lot of moving parts, it makes for a really nice picture once itís all put together.

STEPHENS:

Well, I have a very understanding family that understands that sometimes daddy has got to be on the phone. They know that thereís a means to an end with this. It wonít be forever. Of course, they also know why weíre doing this, and they see the light at the end of the tunnel, and how many people weíre going to be able to help along the journey.

Considering healthcare is a major industry in our region, are there ways your companies can work synergistically with other healthcare providers?

THOMPSON:

When it comes to making referrals outside of our area of our specialty of primary care, if a patient needs a referral to a hospital or to an oncologist or to a specialist somewhere, first and foremost, we have a great network of specialty providers who have agreed to lower and provide some really good cash discounts for those patients. However, by law, itís always patientís choice wherever they choose to go. We always tell them to be an educated healthcare consumer so they know exactly what theyíre going to pay before they get there, instead of waiting for bills to trickle in and just when they think they have it paid, hereís another bill for another $800 or another $1,000. Thatís not the case with EBO MD; you know what you pay, and itís done, and you can move forward with your life. You donít have all these things hanging over your head. So itís affordable, and itís smart and really pretty simple.