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Business Observer Friday, Nov. 3, 2017 10 months ago

High Ranks

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Seeking an underserved 'dark corner' of the health insurance industry was a good move for Kenneth Hannigan. Good enough to go from startup to nearly $50 million in sales in five years.
by: Grier Ferguson Staff Writer

The swoosh graphic running through the triangle in the Adva-Net logo isn't just some fancy design element. It stands for the communication the company facilitates between its three key groups — providers, patients and payers, including insurance agencies.

The Lakewood Ranch-based company is a network for a pain management, post-acute care and addiction recovery and management in the workers' compensation industry. Adva-Net makes money essentially by serving as the billing agent for the provider.

That niche has led to explosive growth, going from $3.83 million in 2014 to $24.3 million last year — up 534%.

For that growth, it was No. 13 on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America. More growth accolades: it was the No. 1 health company and the No. 1 Florida company on the list.

The one downside to the splashy recognition, says Adva-Net CEO and President Kenneth Hannigan, is the company will no longer be able to gain market share and operate under the radar — one key behind the recent surge.

The company, founded in 2012, was the result of conversations about which parts of the health insurance industry weren't being served. The question, “What's the next dark corner?” came up, says Hannigan, who was COO and president of Universal SmartComp, a company that occupied a similar realm as Adva-Net, but for the physical therapy industry.

“In 2012,” he says, “it was in pain management.”

Members of the company's 38-employee team talk with insurance agency representatives about patient needs. They don't direct or manage care, Hannigan says, but suggest care options that are non-surgical and non-chemical after a patient has already received a medical diagnosis.

“It's about taking a time out,” he says. And about the concept of, “let's understand the needs of the patient.”

Once those needs are identified, he says, the next goal is to get the best care for that patient. For someone with lower back pain, that could mean potential solutions such as wearing a back brace, improving a workspace so it's more ergonomic and doing therapeutic exercises.

As Adva-Net handles more clients and cases, the company is amassing more evidence-based outcomes about its branch of patient care. It is data Hannigan says hasn't been collected or analyzed in the same way before. Each piece of new data is inputed into the company's software system.

In addition to the employees who handle customer care, staffers at Adva-Net's Lakewood Ranch office work on aspects of the business including operations, bill collection and sales.

Adva-Net uses a proprietary software system, built to its specifications by programmers and IT employees. The team built electronic data interchanges that allow the company to handle bill paying electronically with the big players in the industry.

Adva-Net is aligned with 55,000 providers across all 50 U.S. states, Hannigan says. It's still lonely in pain management, he says, and there's a lot of room to expand in the industry. To grow, Adva-Net will focus on securing new clients and acquisitions. He says the company is on track to double its 2016 revenue in 2017, which would put it near $50 million.

One challenge? Adva-Net's competition isn't another company that does what it does, but providers that skip Adva-Net and work directly with insurance companies — eliminating Adva-Net from the process. That's why customer service is so important to Hannigan.

To that end, Hannigan asks employees to have a “teeth-and-eye smile.” He says, “When you answer the phone, you can tell.”

The employees who speak on the phone with clients also use scripts, which Hannigan says are written in an intentionally positive style. They also hire new employees before they are in desperate need of more help.

“We staff heavy,” he says. “I need to overstaff so I can over-deliver.”

AT A GLANCE

Year revenue % growth
2014 $3,836,415
2015 $11,655,665 782%
2016 $24,378,783 109%
2017 $48,757,566 projected
Source: Adva-Net

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