Courtney Wise didn't want to lean on her last name like a crutch when she launched a side business to a prominent home healthcare firm in 2008.
The appeal, though, was obvious: Wise's mother, Sue Wise, founded Sarasota-based Take Care Home Health Care in 1995. Under Sue Wise's leadership, the firm, which mostly provides private home healthcare services for seniors, has since grown from four employees to 600. It has more than $15 million a year in revenues, three offices and is now one of the largest home healthcare providers on the Gulf Coast.
Courtney Wise, on the other hand, formed Take Care Advisor.
That firm is a separate limited liability company from Take Care Home Health. It takes a technology-focused approach to managing a client's overall health care. It doesn't provide medical services, nor does it provide hands-on lifestyle care, but its mission is to make sure the client and his or her family is aware of the full medical picture.
So on a daily basis, Take Care Advisors caseworkers will do anything from health insurance reviews to crisis intervention for clients. The caseworker is also the liaison between clients and their families.
The concept is somewhat novel, but necessary, says Wise, mostly because life expectancy has increased so much in the last few decades. “The demand will increase,” says Wise, “but the amount of people available to do these services will decrease.”
Still, the Wise surname was an anchor, not a crutch, in the early days of Take Care Advisor. Some of the employees Courtney Wise supervised from the first day, for instance, were considerably older than her. She launched the firm when she was 27.
“I had two things against me,” says Courtney Wise. “I was the daughter, and I was much younger.”
The younger Wise had other acute challenges. For one, she had to market a new and unproven service in a crowded marketplace. In the tight-knit geriatric care community in Sarasota, that wasn't easy. It remains a challenge.
Now 3 years old, Wise believes Take Care Advisor is on the cusp of a breakout year. The company has grown from nine clients in 2008 to 75 clients in 2010. Wise intends to hire two part-time registered nurses to go with three part-time RNs already on staff. Take Care Advisor currently has five full-time employees, including Wise.
The nurses are the firm's case managers. They are basically a healthcare coach for the clients. The case managers use the firm's Internet-based proprietary software to manage everything from doctor's appointments to medicines. “Our role with each client can be very different,” says Wise.
Wise says the software is key to Take Care Advisor's growth potential. It allows a Take Care Advisor caseworker to go virtually paperless with each client. It also provides a comprehensive system to research treatment options and set up care plans.
My Health Care Manager, an Indianapolis-based firm that specializes in geriatric care, developed the software, called Senior Care Navigation System. Take Care Advisor licenses the software from My Health Care Manager. Wise declined to elaborate on how much it costs to license or train employees on the system.
“It has been incredible to see how much the software has changed, even in the last three years,” says Wise. “It's a big piece of what makes us unique.”
Wise worked for an elderly care facility in California for a year before Take Care Advisor, soon after she earned a master's degree in gerontology. But the lure to run her own business in the industry, especially one in her hometown, drew Wise back. It was the right call, she says, in spite of the challenges.
“The more I work, the more I know this is what I want to do,” says Wise. “I like the autonomy of being able to run my own business.”