A dozen executives, mostly in the transportation industry, have pooled their funds to create a company that will build a healthcare network with facilities located in or near truck yards along the Interstate Highway System.
Interstate Health Systems said in a document reviewed by FreightWaves that it plans to open 40 to 60 locations over the next two years. The company, which started around eight months ago, wants to build more than 300 locations over the next six years, according to the document.
Interstate Health Systems’ facilities will serve fleet and owner-truck drivers, motorists and underserved communities who live nearby, the Nashville, Tenn.-based company said. Sites will be primarily in rural areas and in regions outside of traditional suburbs that have higher population densities than rural communities.
Investors in a pre-seed round of financing include Rob Estes, CEO of breakbulk carrier Estes Express Lines; Jett McCandless, Founder and CEO of Freight Visibility Provider project44; Chad Eichelberger, president of insurance company Reliance Partners; Perry Mandera, Chairman and CEO of Truckload Carrier Custom Companies; Bruce Campbell, former Chairman and CEO of Forward Air; Brad Pinchuk, CEO of refrigerated truck Hirschbach Truck Line; Bob Peterson, chairman and CEO of flatbed truck Melton Truck Lines; and John G. Larkin, an operating partner at private equity firm Clarendon Capital and a longtime transportation analyst.
Ron Rother, former chairman and CEO of management consultancy Strive Consulting, and Fulton Wold, chairman and CEO of Bold Planning Technologies, an emergency management software company, are the two non-transportation and logistics investors.
None of the investments are considered “passive,” meaning that each investor plays an active role to some degree in getting the deal off the ground.
Interstate Health would not disclose how much each investor contributed. The company is working on capital markets funding to raise between $10 million and $20 million. It hopes to attract healthcare companies as investors during the round, Interstate Health CEO Jeff Seraphine told FreightWaves. Seraphine has worked as a senior executive in various rural hospital systems for 25 years.
So far, no truck stop operators have invested, although the company plans to woo their interest as well.
In a statement, Estes called the model a “major leap forward” in solving a “variety of healthcare challenges that our professional drivers face every day.” Seraphine told FreightWaves the company’s goal is to “create the right kind of healthcare that works for drivers.”
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-cabin telematics integration. The locations are supported by a platform that offers telemedicine services and a pharmacy network that is to be expanded, according to the company.
The staff will consist of nurses who will be able to access the services of doctors through online functions. To ensure continuity of care, each facility may receive a user’s medical record. This means a driver who provided services in one city can be followed up for the same issue in another city without having to restart the process in the new location, the company said.
The locations will have more robust capabilities than traditional in-store medical clinics. However, they will not provide surgical services. Nor will they be set up to treat patients whose condition would be more amenable to treatment in a hospital emergency department.
With ongoing healthcare staffing shortages, one of the biggest challenges will be adequately and consistently staffing a site designed to operate 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, Seraphine said, adding that out That’s why the company is built-out must be measured and intentional.
The first three locations, which will be in unidentified areas in the Southeast, are expected to open in the next six months. Two of these facilities will be located on properties operated by private franchisees.
Interstate Health plans to have in-network status with health insurance companies to make it easier for both corporate drivers and owners covered by these plans to use its services. The company will position itself as a low-cost carrier to attract drivers without insurance, Seraphine said.
Many owners and operators have policies with high deductibles and are reluctant to call on them unless they are facing a catastrophic medical event. By making its services affordable, Interstate Health hopes to persuade drivers to stay on top of their health status and seek early treatment if needed. That way, they could avoid major health problems that would force them to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket, he said.
“We don’t want drivers to delay supplies,” Seraphine said.
The second time
This is not the first time a truck stop healthcare model has been introduced. The last attempt ended badly. The Truckers Health Team company closed its 14 locations in June 2021 and liquidated them under Chapter 7 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code. The clinics were located at various Pilot Flying J Travel Centers around the country.
The Interstate Health team conducted a thorough 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 scope and resources compared to what Interstate Health envisioned, Seraphine said.
On the other hand, the systems were located behind truck parking lots. Fleets and drivers had no idea they were there, and the facilities were not accessible in case other potential users, such as motorists and recreational vehicle operators, wanted to use them, Seraphine said. In contrast, Interstate Health buildings will be in drivers’ line of sight, he added.
Another factor was that virtually all of Truckers Health’s investors were financiers. They had no experience or understanding of trucking and cargo transportation in general, Seraphine added. In contrast, Interstate Health’s core investors are made up almost entirely of transportation and logistics professionals.
The ultimate goal is an optimal mix of transportation, healthcare and information technology, Seraphine said.