Urgently changing the model for mental health patients

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Mindful Urgent Care

Tamir Aldad, M.D. is a Research Fellow at the Yale School of Medicine and practices psychiatry in the New York City area. He is also a current Executive MBA student at the Chicago campus. Aldad is competing with his team in this year’s Global New Venture Challenge [GNVC], the executive branch of Chicago Booth’s New Venture Challenge, a top-ranked business launch program designed to help students turn their ideas into viable companies. There are several rounds in the competition where teams present their business plans during live pitch sessions in front of investors, alumni, and business leaders. The competition culminates with a final round featuring the winning teams from our Chicago, London, and Hong Kong campuses on April 12. We spoke to Aldad just as he was preparing for the finals and learned more about the story behind his team’s business, Mindful Urgent Care.

When introducing his Global New Venture Challenge team, Dr. Tamir Aldad begins with a heartbreaking story. A young female college student traveled home to visit her family and found her mother and baby sister locked together in the bathroom. Her mother had overdosed and died, and her sister was malnourished and unresponsive. The young woman was soon transported to the hospital under extreme strain. Upon evaluating her, Aldad wanted to admit her right then, but found that she did not meet psychiatric admission criteria. He wanted to prescribe her medication for long-term treatment, but was restricted from doing so in the ER setting.  Finally, he wanted to set her up with a same-day appointment to see a psychiatrist but found there were no available time slots in the area. The best he could do was offer her an appointment 4-8 weeks away and hope that she would keep it. Weeks later, he learned that the young woman had committed suicide.

The case was not unlike others that Aldad, a current student in the Executive MBA Program, has seen. Working for the department of psychiatry at a community hospital, Aldad has direct experience with the major health problems wreaking havoc across the country; the opioid crisis, rise in mental health issues, and lack of access to care. He often treats patients who are sent home because their symptoms are not serious enough to be admitted and in between that time and a follow-up appointment, bad outcomes, like that of the young woman, can occur.

When Aldad entered the Executive MBA Program at Booth, he knew he wanted to do something in healthcare that would create a large-scale impact. A convergence of the talented classmates he met here and the resources offered through GNVC produced a possible solution for patients like those he sees in the ER: Mindful Urgent Care.

The business – which Aldad is piloting along with a team of eight classmates who specialize in healthcare franchise development, medicine, finance, marketing, and operations – is designed to emulate the urgent care model for psychiatry by providing walk-in mental health facilities. The clinics will leverage physician assistants, who are currently under-utilized in the healthcare system and whose services cost half of what a doctor’s cost. They will also accept both insurance and cash. The team is planning to open its first proof of concept clinic in Long Island, NY this November and is negotiating referral agreements with 10 local hospitals. They have raised $250,000 in funding and have taken steps to open a second location in Midtown, Manhattan in March 2019.

The relationships and resources at Booth have had a profound effect on getting Mindful Urgent Care to this point. Although Aldad had experience dealing with issues faced by mental health patients, he credits the collaboration with his classmates as the driving force behind Mindful Urgent Care. “That’s what initially attracted me to Booth,” he reflected. “I saw how close relationships developed between current students and alumni with very little competition.” His classmates brought different perspectives and a fresh lens to the problem. “Our team has leaders in marketing who reevaluated our entire go-to-market strategy, finance professionals who redid our valuations, and strategy experts who challenge me by playing devil’s advocate to make sure we predict unforeseen obstacles.”

The GNVC experience brings those skills to bear in an immediate way. The class takes place over six days during 12-hour long sessions where the students work on building and perfecting their business models. It’s fast-paced, and feedback from faculty and advisers can be relentless. But there is a point to all of the hard work – changing an idea into an actual solution and getting ready to pitch in front of investors during the semi-final competitions, where prize money and additional resources are awarded. 

As he and his team prepare for the final round on April 12, Aldad can already see the benefits of the process. “I could have opened a clinic independently and scaled it in 20 years,” he commented. “But with help from Booth and the GNVC, that 20-25 year scaling model has become 4-5 years.”