Five questions with IllumiCare's G.T. LaBorde – Birmingham Business Journal


The current business, IllumiCare, started that way. My partner saw a 36-year-old nurse in his health system. She had Crohn’s disease. Over the prior three years she had had 18 CT scans – different facilities, different physicians, and it took him a lot of digging and a fair amount of time to dig back through her records to discover all of these scans. Then it took him about four hours just to figure out for that amount of radiation, what’s the cancer risk for that? It turns out the health system gave her the same radiation exposure that she would have had if she was in Hiroshima and stood one mile from ground zero from where the bomb exploded more than twice in her lifetime. The cancer-causing risk of being exposed to that amount of radiation never goes away.

This company was started because electronic medical records are designed to be these transactional systems and they’re not very good at showing us the big picture. Either what we’ve cumulatively done to the patient and its effect on the patient or the amount of money we’ve spent doing all this stuff and what we’re doing to our health system by overdoing it. The general problem is we overdo it a lot. When we overdo it the patients suffer, there are complications, there are unnecessary procedures and there is harm that comes to patients. We’re wasting resources that could be used to provide health care to other people. That was the foundation – how can we empower physicians by showing them kind of the human and economic costs cumulatively so that they can make a better decision about the next thing to do. If they’re fully informed they make better decisions. Their hearts are in the right place. They don’t want to do unnecessary things to the patient and don’t want to waste resources either. They’re asked to provide value-based care but they aren’t told the costs.

Is there anything from your schooling that you have taken with you into the business world?

The very first thing you learn in the very first day of economics class is resources are finite. Or else there would be no need for economics. We would all have everything we wanted. There are limited resources and we try to figure out how are we going to allocate the resources that we have. With IllumiCare, we can’t operate a health system without any regard to what things cost because it’s already not serving people because it doesn’t have enough resources. There’s a price to pay for being wasteful. It’s not good for our health system or society. If we want to take care of more people and do it well, we have to have the resources to do that and we can’t waste them. And it all goes back to the first thing I learned in economics class.

What do you think makes a business successful?

The things that make you successful in business is recruiting the right people into your company and/or getting the funding and resources needed to allow you to execute your plans. A lot of both of those things is relationship driven. Most of the good employees that you find are known to either your existing employees or people that you know. The same thing with finding resources. It’s generally within one or two degrees of separation in your own network. It’s a benefit to having a kind and small enough community – the willingness to support others. The people here generally cheer other successes and if we can help we will. Different entrepreneurs are helping each other. We generally cheer for each other. We support each other. There is something that gives you a bit of a lift to have the support of the people. The thing I see among people who are successful at running their companies is they have a servant attitude. They come to work every day trying to figure out how I can help that person be successful in life and in their job and what can I do to grease the skids for the people who work for you. People want to do a meaningful job and want their work to matter. They want the power and the opportunity to do their job well.

What did you learn in that time with corporate America that helps with being a business owner?

I got to rub shoulders with some of the world’s biggest corporations. I learned two very important lessons from that job. No. 1, the patience it takes to sell something to a big organization. You know, selling a big company something really means usually multiple people have influence on that decision. That was great training for my future. Then, I learned another important lesson. These people who have some of the most sought-after jobs in the world – they put their pants on in the morning just like everyone else. They’re people. They’re not magic. Most of them are super nice, more humble than you would think, and at the end of the day, they’re people. They’ve made a lot of sacrifices to get where they are and work really hard.

What is your favorite part about being involved in startup businesses?

Life’s too short. You spend a good portion of your life at work. You might as well enjoy the people you work with and enjoy the relationships you have. The most fun you can have is busting your ass with a group of other people who are also busting their ass to really do something important together and see yourself succeeding. That’s when everybody’s having fun. You can really make so much progress in such a short amount of time. Every person can see their contribution and how much it adds. It’s super fun because every person could say this company wouldn’t be here without their contribution.

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