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Linda Nash notes that her entrepreneurial careers have shadowed her own life goals. When she was preparing to start a family and wanted more job flexibility, she started a day-care service for school-aged children. That expanded into a statewide chain of workplace child-care centers, which she sold to a public company in 1998. Now, as an empty nester, Nash is CEO of concierge-medicine provider PartnerMD, which she founded in 2003. The company employs nine doctors in three Virginia locations (the main office is in Henrico's West End, with satellites in Midlothian and McLean), who have a limited number of patients and are able to devote more time to them. Patients, who pay a yearly membership fee, have access to a doctor 24 hours a day and receive an extensive annual physical. A Bay Area native, Nash moved here with her husband, University of Richmond journalism professor Steve Nash, in 1980. They have three children.
Q: What kind of customers does PartnerMD have — people who've retired, or people who want more health care than their companies offer?
A: It's all of the above. It really surprised me when I opened the company, the range of customers. My one reservation was that this would be medicine for the rich or the elite, and it really is not — we have bus drivers, teachers, electricians, social workers, university professors, a lot of retired folks. And the age range is larger than I thought; certainly, our sweet spot demographically is the mid-40s to the mid-60s, but we have college students, 30-somethings, the whole gamut.
Some have conditions that either A. require a lot of contact [with a physician] or B. have fibromyalgia or other conditions that are difficult to diagnose. Then we have people who are healthy and proactive but … want that partner looking deeper into their health, so they can stay active and on top of their game.
Q: Can you share an anecdote of a doctor finding something wrong with a patient that may not have been found under ordinary circumstances?
A: A person I know was diagnosed with throat cancer. She had a biopsy and slides and had surgery scheduled, and just before the surgery, she got a call from the surgeon saying, "Oh, you don't have throat cancer after all. You can cancel the surgery. The slides don't show any throat cancer."
With the help of the PartnerMD physician, this patient was going to get a second opinion. Our physician stayed up late at night and looked at everything and said, "Something about this doesn't make sense. Why would you get scheduled [for surgery]?" She found out that when the first institution sent the second institution the slides, it was missing one slide — the slide with the cancer.
This patient did end up having the surgery and is [now] fine. It took our physician counting the slides and looking at the correspondence and going, "Something's not right here." That's the type of thing that just about any physician in Richmond could do. It's just having the time.
Q: Where are you seeing the most growth?
A: The most growth is at the Henrico office. We have a high patient retention rate — it's 96 percent. That means 96 out of 100 renew their membership every year. We have 3,300 members at this location alone, so if all of them are telling their friends, a lot of it becomes referrals.
Q: How about executive physicals?
A: We have relationships with some of the top companies in town; Capital One is one of our largest customers for executive physicals. Dominion, Markel, Brinks, Luck Stone send their executives to us. An executive can join at a discount, or if a CEO joins, he or she can bring in coworkers to do this. It's a daylong physical — very thorough. [ Laughs ]
Q: When you had your day-care business, how did you handle your employees' health care?
A: We had the traditional Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield [policy] and just paid for that. But I remember a few incidences where people really couldn't get what they needed. One of our teachers had a cancer diagnosis, and it was very, very frustrating how at sea she was, trying to get answers.
Q: When was the first time you were an entrepreneur? I'm talking about a lemonade stand or something like that.
A: In middle school, I actually did freelance writing. I would send out queries to different magazines. I wouldn't tell them my age, and I would publish articles. I liked to write about astrology. It paid well — they didn't know they were hiring a 13-year-old, no.
Q: I noticed your husband's name is Steve Nash, like the Phoenix Suns point guard.
A: Not the basketball player. I will tell you, we were in Canada recently, and we checked into a hotel, and there was an entire welcoming committee standing there. They took one look at my husband and saw that he wasn't the Steve Nash, and the look on their faces was pretty funny. [ Laughs ] " Ohhh, hiiii, welcome to the Hilton!"
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I love to travel, and I love to hike. My husband and I are big hikers; we spent a week hiking in Glacier National Park, and we spent a few days hiking around Bend, Oregon. I like to get above treeline and do long, steep hikes. I like long-distance bike riding. I'm very much an outdoor person. I read a lot, and I like to socialize.
Q: Do you think that this is the last business you'll have, or do you think you'll do something else?
A: Probably not on this scale — I think this is the last large business I'll have. Entrepreneurs always toy with side propositions, but this pretty much takes up all my attention. What's exciting about PartnerMD is there are so many areas we can develop within the company. We were talking in a meeting — not that we're ready to do this yet — about home health care for some of our older patients. We developed a thumb drive so you can put all of your health information on [it]. It's encrypted, but you can take it places. This keeps me fresh as an entrepreneur. It's not like you do it, and you're done. It's a work in process.