IV therapy provider Infusion Express has its sights set on national expansion.
For those who suffer with chronic health issues that require infusion therapy, spending hours to receive treatment can be daunting. A patient might be stuck for hours in the sterile, cold environment of a hospital or a doctor’s office, stranded away from work or the comfort of home.
Today, one Kansas City area company is offering another option, one that makes treatment a more pleasant experience.
Infusion Express provides intravenous drug treatment for people dealing with such conditions as Crohn’s disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases—but in a unique setting, CEO Don Peterson said.
“We operate in a spa-like environment,” he said. “We’re more like a drive-up retail space than a hospital.”
Therapy rooms are decorated in neutral, soothing colors with comfortable leather recliners for patients to use during treatment. Rooms have large flat-screen televisions that patients can watch, helping them relax during treatments that can take anywhere from two hours to all day to complete. For those patients who feel they can’t be away from the office, Infusion Express has rooms with desks, chairs and printers so they can get work done during treatment.
“We have a space where they can bring other family members with them during treatment, which is generally not allowed in the other
settings,” Peterson said. “We try to make it possible to come later in the day or evening or on Saturday. People tend to go to a hospital or doctors’ offices for these infusions, and they are generally not open evenings or weekends.”
Registered nurses staff Infusion Express, and nurse practitioners with physician supervisors are on hand to make sure the highest standards are followed during treatment. (Currently, the company does not provide chemotherapy.) In addition, Infusion Express works with every insurance company in the area.
“We need to because the average charge for infusion is upwards of $5,000 a month,” Peterson said.
Each week, Infusion Express’s three Kansas City area locations see about 100 patients combined. The company has five additional locations outside of Kansas City, including the San Francisco area, the Chicago metro and the suburbs of Philadelphia.
The potential market is huge. According to Peterson, about 6 to 8 percent of the U.S. population have medical conditions like the ones that Infusion Express addresses. Of that group, about 25 to 33 percent need IV therapy.
‘I Realized There Was a Big Gap’
Peterson brings a wealth of business experience to Infusion Express.
His resume includes time with AMD, one of the world’s leading producers of computer processors. He started his own company, DeskStation Technology, which made high-speed-graphics computers for the scientific and entertainment markets. It was later sold to Samsung.
In 2012, Peterson teamed up with Chris Ford and Dr. Robert Newth to launch Infusion Express.
Ford is the CEO of Physician Management Partners, which offers risk management and consulting services to independent physicians, and Newth is a radiologist with Alliance Radiology. Both men are also on the board of Spec*KC, a local network of independent specialty physicians. Newth is board chair.
Peterson himself was no stranger to the health care field. He was chief operations officer for a nationwide cardiac imaging company for a few years, then consulted on imaging centers from 2009 to 2012.
The idea for Infusion Express germinated while Peterson was working with a medical practice going through a merger.
“They were doing some infusions for a few patients with Crohn’s disease … and for a large majority of their patients, the doctors didn’t know if and where they were going for their infusions,” Peterson said. “I found that disconcerting that the doctors didn’t know whether the patients were getting treatments. Once I understood this situation, I realized there was a big gap.”
In many cases, patients go to hospitals for infusions—treatments that can be quite costly.
“We thought if we created a service at lower rates than hospitals, we could provide a service for those who didn’t think there was anywhere else to go but a hospital,” he said.
Peterson and his partners discussed the idea, looked at the long-term prospects for success and decided to move forward.
“We put our money together for our first location and decided to see how we could do,” he said. “We soon realized the gap in the marketplace. It was much bigger, and so we opened the Overland Park location” using $250,000 from angel investors to do so, Peterson said.
By the middle of 2015, another angel investor came in with $1.2 million, which the partners earmarked for expansion outside of the Kansas City area.
Raising funds locally has been an early challenge, Peterson said.
“Let me say this first: I love KC and its people,” he said. “Raising our children here was the best decision we ever made. That said, KC is a very difficult place to start and grow a company. Although there are a growing number of support services and prospective investors, as a city KC still lags the nation in such support.”
‘We Expect to Be the National Brand Leader’
Patients come to Infusion Express primarily by physician referral.
“Our effort is calling on those prescribers,” Peterson said. “Pharmaceutical reps have been very helpful in identifying patients, and insurance companies have been helpful because it helps contain costs. They have case management staff who will help guide people in our direction.”
One shot in the arm for Infusion Express is its direct provider agreement with Cerner to deliver this kind of treatment for the corporation’s employees.
It was Ford who connected Infusion Express to Cerner. He was talking to the company about Spec*KC, and when Cerner representatives mentioned they were also interested in ways to save on their pharmacy costs, it was natural to bring up Infusion Express.
“They saw the value in our offering and wanted it for their many associates who would benefit from our services,” Peterson said.
Infusion Express has reported strong gains since opening for business. Peterson said its growth rate month over month has been 11 percent and about 25 percent quarter over quarter.
“Last quarter, we did $3 million in revenue … and we should finish 2016 over $10 million,” he said.
There are more than 1,000 active patients in the Kansas City area alone.
“(In 2017) we could top $25 million. And we are not stopping there,” Peterson said. “We want to have 40 locations by 2019 in every major city in the country…. We expect to become the national brand leader in the next five years. We intend to be the category leader. We anticipate 2020-2021 revenue will be over a half billion (dollars).”
Peterson said one reason for this strong growth pattern is Infusion Express is filling a gap in the marketplace for the kind of service it provides. There are other reasons, as well.
“We turn inventory fast, and we keep no more than nine days’ supply on hand,” Peterson said. “We file claims as patients leave the building and collect within 20 days.”
Infusion Express is benefiting from lessons that Peterson gained from his earlier startup experiences.
“I learned during the first one about some of the pitfalls,” he said. “We knew (with this) we had to operate very efficiently and run it unlike other health care practices are run.”
Peterson has some advice for other entrepreneurs.
“There is a big difference between an inventor and an innovator,” Peterson said. “What I see a lot of entrepreneurs focus on is the product, but it is more about building a sustainable business.”