A dozen executives, most from the transportation industry, have pooled their funds to form a company that will build a healthcare network with facilities located at or near truck stops along the Interstate Highway System.
Interstate Health Systems said in a document reviewed by FreightWaves that it plans to open 40 to 60 sites over the next two years. The company, which launched about eight months ago, aims to build more than 300 locations over the next six years, according to the document.
Interstate Health Systems‘ facilities will serve fleet and owner-operator truck drivers, motorists and underserved communities living nearby, the Nashville, Tennessee-based company said. Locations will primarily be in rural areas and in regions beyond traditional suburbs that have a higher population density than rural communities.
Investors in what is known as a pre-seed funding round include Rob Estes, CEO of LTL carrier Estes Express Lines; Jett McCandless, Founder and CEO of the Freight Visibility Provider Project44; Chad Eichelberger, president of insurance company Reliance Partners; Perry Mandera, president and CEO of Custom Companies, a truckload carrier; Bruce Campbell, former Chairman and CEO of Forward Air; Brad Pinchuk, CEO of refrigerated carrier Hirschbach Truck Line; Bob Peterson, president and CEO of flatbed carrier Melton Truck Lines; and John G. Larkin, operating partner at private equity firm Clarendon Capital and longtime transportation analyst.
Ron Rother, former president and CEO of management consultant Strive Consulting, and Fulton Wold, president and CEO of Bold Planning Technologies, an emergency management software company, are the two non-transportation investors and to logistics.
None of the investments are considered “passive” in nature, which means that each investor plays an active role, to some degree, in starting the business.
Interstate Health would not disclose the amount of each investor’s contribution. The company is working on capital market financing to raise between $10-20 million. It hopes to attract healthcare companies as investors in the round, Jeff Seraphine, CEO of Interstate Health, told FreightWaves. Séraphine spent 25 years as a senior executive in various rural hospital systems.
At this stage, no truck stop operators have invested, although the company has said it also plans to solicit their interest.
In a statement, Estes called the model a “great leap forward” toward addressing a “various health issues that our professional drivers face on a daily basis.” Seraphine told FreightWaves that the company’s goal is “to create the right kind of healthcare that works for drivers.”
The facilities will be designed to provide primary and emergency care services, with users able to book appointments and communicate with specific facilities via an app on their phone or in-cab telematics integration. The locations will be supported by a platform that offers telemedicine services, as well as a network of pharmacies that will be built, the company said.
Nurse practitioners, who can access physician services through online capabilities, will make up the staff. To ensure continuity of care, each establishment can obtain a user’s medical file. This means a driver whose services were rendered in one city can receive follow-up care for the same issue in another city without having to start the process over at the new location, the company said.
The locations will have more robust capabilities than traditional medical clinics. However, they will not provide surgical services. Nor will they be set up to treat patients whose conditions would be more suited to treatment in a hospital emergency room.
As health worker shortages continue, one of the biggest challenges will be adequately and consistently staffing a site that will be designed to operate 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, said Seraphine, adding that for this reason, building the business -out needs to be measured and deliberate.
The first three sites, which will be in unidentified areas of the southeast, are expected to open within the next six months. Two of these facilities will be located on properties operated by private franchisees.
Interstate Health plans to have network status with health insurance companies, which will make it easier for the company’s drivers, as well as owner-operators covered by these plans, to use its services. The company will position itself as a low-cost provider in an effort to attract drivers who don’t have insurance, Seraphine said.
Many owner-operators have high deductible policies and are reluctant to use them unless they are faced with a catastrophic medical event. By making its services affordable, Interstate Health hopes to convince drivers to stay informed about their condition and seek early treatment if needed. By doing so, they could avoid major health issues that would cost them thousands of dollars, he said.
“We don’t want drivers to delay care,” Seraphine said.
The second time
This isn’t the first time a truck stop healthcare model has been launched. The last attempt ended badly. The company, Truckers Health Team, closed its 14 locations in June 2021 and was liquidated under Chapter 7 of the federal bankruptcy code. The clinics were located at various Pilot Flying J Travel Centers across the country.
The Interstate Health team conducted an in-depth review of the Truckers Health saga to determine what went wrong and how the model could be run differently. For one, the Truckers Health network lacked sufficient scale and resources compared to what Interstate Health envisions, Seraphine said.
On the other hand, the facilities were located behind the truck parking lots. Fleets and drivers had no idea they were there, and the facilities were inaccessible if other potential users such as motorists and RV drivers wanted to use them, Seraphine said. In contrast, Interstate Health buildings will be in sight of drivers, he added.
Another factor was that virtually all of Truckers Health’s investors were financiers. They had no experience or understanding of trucking and freight transportation in general, Séraphine added. In contrast, the major investors in Interstate Health are comprised almost exclusively of transportation and logistics professionals.
The end goal is to have an optimal mix of involvement in transportation, healthcare and information technology, Seraphine said.