Kara Trott '91 Never Says Never
In 1991, Kara Trott '91 joined Bricker & Eckler as an associate, unsure of exactly where her career in law was going to take her. As the firm requested, she submitted a list of three specialties she would be interested in pursuing and one specialty that she had zero interest in--healthcare. Kara had nothing against the healthcare industry; she simply didn't know much about the field. Yet 15 years later, she is the successful founder and chief executive of a rapidly growing health benefits management company.
In 1999, Kara left law to blaze an unexpected new career path by co-founding Quantum Health LLC with a former Bricker & Eckler partner, who later retired from the company. Quantum Health provides innovative coordinated healthcare programs for employers, with the goal of eliminating confusion and providing advocacy for employees and their families, while keeping costs down for the businesses.
The company's coordinated healthcare programs guide patient behavior through a combination of patient incentives, preventive screening and wellness education, disease management, and direct coordination with patients, families, physicians and office staffs. "The result of this coordination," Kara says, "is a more efficient process of healthcare resulting in higher patient satisfaction and lower cost."
Since the company's formation, Quantum Health has been able to hold its business customers' annual increase in healthcare costs at 4.3 percent, while the industry trend is between 13 and 16 percent. Importantly, "none have had to reduce benefits or shift costs to employees to save costs," Kara notes.
|Kara Trott, CEO of Quantum Health, describes the concept of coordinated healthcare programs to President Bush as COO Randy Gebhardt (left) listens|
Kara said the business model was refined by 2001. In 2002, Kara asked her husband, Randy Gebhardt, a well-known business consultant, to join the company to manage all operating functions, and the Columbus-based company went nationwide in 2004. Last year, it experienced 100 percent growth, leading to national recognition from Ernst & Young with the regional Entrepreneur of the Year award and inclusion in Harvard University's Innovative Business web site, as well as the opportunity to meet President George Bush.
Kara began her professional career working in consumer behavior and market research at RPA Worldwide for five years. She said it was her desire to be more of an advocate and to pursue a profession with more social responsibility that drew her toward law school.
"I liked what I was doing at RPA, but I didn't feel I was making much of a difference," she said. "You can only be fulfilled for so long helping K-mart sell blouses. It wasn't meaningful enough for me."
At Bricker & Eckler, she began working in the firm's corporate law section, which exposed her to healthcare through merger and acquisition work, among other duties.
Over time, she began to hear many of the same themes in healthcare that she had heard in her retail market research work, and the idea that would become Quantum Health began to take shape. "Our programs address the underlying problem in the industry today," says Kara, "which is the process of healthcare is broken at the patient level--it's just too confusing for the patient to navigate."
Kara coordinated a study of 3,200 patients through local hospitals, aimed at pinning down patient behaviors and questions. What she found was that:
- 18 to 20 percent of the healthcare events never needed to occur and are caused by lack of coordination,
- 44 percent of patients were confused and needed information, but didn't know whom to call for guidance, and
- 41 percent of specialist visits are self referrals and 61 percent of these are to the wrong specialist, resulting in delayed diagnosis and unnecessary costs.
It was then that Kara was inspired to create a company that could solve those issues.
"To be in the practice of law, you have to be fairly neutral," she says. "I felt I wasn't 'causal' enough. I thought it was fun and intellectually challenging, but I also needed to satisfy my personal goals."
"I saw an opportunity in the marketplace to create something that could make a difference," she says. "I wasn't looking for it, but when the opportunity came, I was open. I wanted to learn what was out there on the horizon, so I just dug in and pursued it."
The transition was not without its bumps. She traveled the path of many an entrepreneur--adding up loans and subtracting free time. But those sacrifices are paying off. Between 2004 and 2005, the patients overseen by Quantum Health doubled to 52,000, the employees at the company doubled to 55, and revenue increased by 40 percent.
Though she veered from the traditional path into the untraditional and unexpected, Kara knows the journey would not have been possible without the education she gained at Moritz.
"Even though I don't practice law now, the discipline and thought process I learned at Moritz just can't be matched," she says. "It teaches you objectivity, perseverance and critical thinking."