Capital Region

Healthcare consultant in Saratoga Springs attributes success to serendipity

Patty HasBrouck listens to her heart and her gut to move herself, her clients forward
Patty HasBrouck outside on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, February 8, 2019.
Patty HasBrouck outside on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, February 8, 2019.

Patty HasBrouck attributes her career success to serendipity.

“It’s all about place, time and opportunity converging,” the Saratoga Springs resident said. “I feel like throughout my career, it’s been a matter of following my heart and following my gut.”

Serendipity began directing HasBrouck’s course during the mid 1980s, after she graduated from Stanford University.

“I really wanted to live in San Francisco with my friends and the only job offer I had in San Francisco was at a hospital, so I entered healthcare,” she said.

The recent graduate had a degree in industrial engineering but found herself working in management engineering at Pacific Presbyterian Medical Center. The job, she said, was “a lot of cost analysis and program analysis.”

She found she enjoyed it.

“It was at a really transitional time in the healthcare industry because Medicare had just changed the way it reimbursed hospitals,” she said. “So it was a time of heavy transitions, when hospitals were becoming businesses for the first time. I was just intrigued with the industry.”

After a couple of years at the hospital, HasBrouck began applying to business schools that had a healthcare emphasis, and went on to earn a MBA in healthcare management, finance and marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

After graduation, she landed a job at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, where she worked for three years, first as an administrative fellow and then as director of corporate finance.

Serendipity then stepped in once again and transported HasBrouck all the way across the country. She married a man who grew up in New York state, and they moved there to be closer to his family.

Once settled in upstate New York, HasBrouck went to work for the Center for Health Policy Studies, a health policy consulting group with an office in Albany. The work there focused on federal and state healthcare policy.

“I did some fascinating projects,” she said. “We were the consultants to the state of Vermont, evaluating whether you could do universal healthcare in Vermont.”

HasBrouck also said she worked on managed care contracts for the Indian Health Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services responsible for providing health services to federally-recognized Native American tribes and Alaska Natives.

Three-and-a-half years after starting her job at the Center for Health Policy Studies, HasBrouck, who had since become a mom, resigned because she found it difficult to juggle long work hours with parenting responsibilities. The respite didn’t last long. A few weeks after her resignation, Jack Knowlton, her former boss, asked if she wanted to start a new firm with him. She accepted.

In 1996, HasBrouck and Knowlton founded Empire Health Advisors. The firm does New York state health policy work for various agencies and provides services including program evaluation, regulatory support and strategic planning.

In 2014, HasBrouck left that firm to found Madison Healthcare Advisors, with the intent of giving herself a more flexible schedule.

“It was all just a matter of freedom,” she said. “I still subcontract to Jack a lot.”

Madison Healthcare Advisors offers healthcare providers and advocacy organizations a range of services, including regulatory support.

“If Hometown Health, for example, wanted to open a clinic on the other side of Schenectady, it would have to go through a regulatory process to do that, so I would help an organization like that open a clinic on the other side of town,” she explained, noting that Hometown Health is not a current client.

HasBrouck also helps organizations with financial analysis, feasibility studies and strategic planning.

“I recently worked with a group of surgeons to develop an ambulatory surgery center. I’ve done all sorts of fun work,” she said.

Her favorite projects are ones that have an impact. One that immediately came to mind was work she and Knowlton did 10 or 15 years ago for the New York Racing Association, to develop a benefits program for the Saratoga Race Course’s backstretch workers. A piece of that project was to put a medical clinic on the backstretch.

“In the summer there are 1,500 backstretch workers at Saratoga and I think most of them have no transportation, and they’ve never had a clinic onsite. So, to put healthcare services onsite at Saratoga was a huge deal in terms of enabling access to primary preventative healthcare services,” she explained.

HasBrouck said she heard many success stories after the clinic’s first season.

“[Doctors] saw 35-year-old women who had never had a women’s health visit. They saw people who had no access to healthcare. By putting the clinic on the backstretch, it made a difference,” she said.

HasBrouck has also helped expand access to healthcare through her work with Planned Parenthood. She helped the Glens Falls clinic relocate from a downtown location to one across the street from Adirondack Community College in Queensbury, which she said is safer, more modern and more easily accessible.

HasBrouck’s firm does not have a website. Jobs come in through word of mouth. And business is growing – a phenomenon she chalks up to faith, trust and value.

“I was kind of thinking I’d be doing a lot of skiing winter of 2019 and instead I’m doing a lot of work winter of 2019,” she said with a laugh.

Madison Healthcare Advisors isn’t the only venture keeping HasBrouck off the slopes. She’s also co-founder of Incentivate Health, a software development company that offers a text messaging program for use by health plans, self-insured employers and self-insured employer groups. The texting program is integrated with a patient incentive feature.

That business came into being thanks to HasBrouck’s old pal serendipity. At a 2015 fundraiser in Saratoga Springs, a friend introduced HasBrouck to Larry Toole, who also works in the healthcare industry. That winter, the two began meeting at Uncommon Grounds in Saratoga Springs once every few weeks to talk about the industry. In July of 2015, they became co-founders of Incentivate Health.

The company’s goal is to promote the adoption of healthy behaviors among populations vulnerable to chronic disease and economic hardship. Its program allows a health plan to text its members reminders about things like upcoming checkups. If patients attend their appointment, they are rewarded with a credit on their mobile phone account.

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“Health plans have a really hard time staying in touch, particularly with low income populations. If you’re paying their cell phone bill, they’re going to keep their number current. The concept is totally self-reinforcing,” HasBrouck noted.

The technology encourages patients to take small steps toward better health.

“So if you’re a diabetic, encouraging you to do your blood sugar tests. If you’re obese, asking you to go to your doctor or weigh yourself – simple baby steps – and we’ll throw $5, $10, whatever it is, to encourage you to take healthy actions,” she explained.

As time has passed, HasBrouck has stayed open to serendipity, but has also honed her business focus.

“I feel like now I work with clients who are of like mind, or I admire who they are and what they’re doing. Anything I can do to help them achieve their objectives is a win for me and if I get paid for it, yay, great!” she said.

Last April, HasBrouck attended a program at the Modern Elder Academy in Mexico, which was founded by Chip Conley, a friend of hers from college. The academy was developed to help people in midlife transition happily and successfully into life’s next phase.

“It gave me a little bit more structured thought process about being purposeful and about trimming the things that are less valuable to you and focusing on the things that are more valuable to you,” she said. “So that gave me a new set of tools to move forward.”

When she’s not working, HasBrouck does volunteer work for projects that are close to her heart. In 2018 she joined the Board of the Lake George Land Conservancy, a non-profit land trust that works to protect the lake’s water quality and to permanently preserve the region’s natural, scenic, historic and recreational resources.

“I’ve been [vacationing] up at Lake George since 2000, so almost 20 years, and the first decade, I kind of took its presence and its beauty for granted,” she said. “And only just by being there, you realize what a special place it is, how pure the water is, and once appreciation evolves, you realize, ‘Oh, this is actually fragile. We need to work to maintain this.’”

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