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The Light Files - Juliet Breeze

Juliet Breeze

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Healthcare is a complicated business; today’s guest saw a need and addressed it. Laura Max interviews Dr. Juliet Breeze, CEO and founder of Next Level Urgent Care.

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Laura: Hi everyone. I'm Laura Max, your host of the Light Files on brought to you by Audi Central Houston. I'm here today with Juliet Breeze. Juliet is the CEO and founder of Next Level Urgent Care. We all know that sometimes we get bumps, bruises, scrapes, cuts. It's not quite an emergency but we do need a doctor around after hours and that's what Juliet has brought to us. So welcome to the show Juliet.

Juliet: Thank you very much.

Laura: So tell us about Next Level Urgent Care. I mean you founded it fairly recently, right?

Juliet: Yes. Actually we just opened our first location last July, July 2013 and we are opening our ninth location here in two weeks.

Laura: So nine locations essentially in pretty much a year or less than a year.

Juliet: Yes.

Laura: So what was your goal? I mean you said to me earlier that you always wanted to be a scientist even though you were an English major in college which was pretty cool.

Juliet: Yes. Well I always wanted to be a doctor is really the truth of the matter. I love medicine. I love the idea of helping people. I was a family practice doctor practicing for four and a half years but there was another side of my personality which was I just had a tremendous love for business and the medical industry, the healthcare industry is fascinating. It's ever changing. There's a lot of complexity to it and it just captured my attention. So for the last 12 years I've been doing all sorts of things in the healthcare world in the business sector.

Laura: So tell me about the process of starting a business in medicine. Starting a business isn't easy especially starting a business in medicine.

Juliet: That is true. It helps a lot to be involved in it and to understand it. Actually the most important thing for me in this new venture was that I've been in Houston now for 20 years so I've met a lot of people. I have a lot of colleagues and that was very helpful. I think it would be incredibly difficult to break into the medical community in Houston without really knowing the patterns, the referral patterns and the way that patients get their care here.

Laura: I've heard that form a lot of people that I've interviewed on this show that you really can't do it alone. You need those mentors and a support system, people to guide you.

Juliet: Yes.

Laura: Luckily, Houston is a very friendly city. So we have that.

Juliet: Absolutely very much so. I also have the good fortune of having my husband is a very successful surgeon and entrepreneur in his own right and my very best friends in medical school were also both physicians and entrepreneurs. So I have surrounded myself with some really interesting, impressive people that have pulled me along with them as they've gone up the ladder.

Laura: That is so important to surround yourself with successful people, people that really motivate you and you drive you.

Juliet: Yes.

Laura: For sure. So tell me about the goal of Next Level Urgent Care. I spoke a little bit about it in the beginning and your goal to basically help people who have a medical issue. It's not quite an emergency but it's also after hours.

Juliet: Exactly. Well in Houston we have a very interesting situation that is not actually typical to the rest of the country. In Texas we are allowed to have emergency rooms that are not attached to hospitals. That's actually unusual.

Laura: Yeah, you see them in strip malls like all over the state.

Juliet: That's right. There's good and bad to that. If you have an emergency, a true, life-threatening emergency in my opinion you should truly be near a hospital. If you are having a heart attack you might need a heart catheterization. If you're having a stroke you're going to need neurologists and people that are qualified right there in the area especially if you're having a surgical condition that needs immediate operation. You don't want to be in a strip mall. That's my opinion. But what has happened here is there's so many things in fact the latest statistic is that last year about 60 million emergency room visits were for non-emergent conditions. So that was nationwide but here - we have a large city here in Houston so there's a lot of visits going through the emergency rooms that just aren't really emergencies. So what has happened is that these free standing emergency rooms have offloaded some of that from the hospital but the interesting part about that is that they still charge like emergency rooms. I learned this the hard way. Actually a personal experience.

Laura: You went to one yourself.

Juliet: Yes. In fact my son - our whole family was out at the pool. We were enjoying the day. He dove into the deep end and he came up screaming and holding his ear. I knew from experience that he had probably perforated his ear drum but I have a strict rule in my house that I don't prescribe pain medicines to my own children. So I said, "Well I have a great idea. There's a new place that just opened down the street. We'll go over there much quicker." His pediatrician wasn't open. So we drove over to the freestanding emergency room and it was a wonderful experience. We were in and out in no time. It was a beautiful facility. The doctor saw us for about two minutes because really that's all we needed. He looked in the ear. He said, "Yep, it's perforated. Here's your prescription for pain medicines." We were out of there. I walked out thinking, "God this is the way healthcare should be; this is was so easy," until a few weeks later when I got the bill for $800.00.

Laura: Oh my gosh.

Juliet: I immediately went to my friends and my neighbors and I said, "Hey, out of curiosity what do you do on an evening or a Saturday or a Sunday when you or your child is sick or injured?" They all said, "Oh well we go to the E.R." I said, "But oh my gosh, my bill was so high." "Oh yeah, absolutely. It's outrageous."

Laura: But it's just something that you have to put up with.

Juliet: But they said, "Well what's the alternative?" So that's when I knew what I was going to do.

Laura: That's where you come in.

Juliet: Yeah, that's where I come in. We set about making a business plan. The reason that we've done so many locations so quickly is because part of the plan is to cost share. All these clinics are sharing the larger expenses of the medical practice, so the IT infrastructure, servers and human resources and the management and marketing and branding and things like that are all shared across ten centers instead of each one having to pay for all of those things individually. What we found is when we organized our business that way we were able to save a lot of money. In fact compared to - there's a center in Katy that's a freestanding or an urgent care center that we used as a comparator and our expenses are about $30,000.00 less per month than that center. So we can pass on that savings to our patients and provide a really good medical experience but for about five to ten times less than they're going to pay in an emergency room.

Laura: You know I've been in that situation myself where something happens and I have a stomach ache and I'm really concerned but it's the weekend or it's after hours and I just think, "Well I'm not going to pay $500.00, $800.00 to go to the emergency room."

Juliet: Exactly. If you come into our place it's just a co-pay if you have insurance and if you don't have insurance we actually tell you upfront how much it's going to cost and it's published on our website so you will never be surprised. If you go to a hospital, if you go into an emergency room and you say, "I have this injury here; how much will it cost," they will have a hard time telling you how much that will be before you actually get treatment. I think that's a problem that we have in medicine today. There's no other service or industry that you go to and you have no idea what your bill is going to be and you yet submit yourself for the service.

Laura: Yeah. I mean it's having to essentially get a product and then find out what the bill is later. Nobody does that in any other industry.

Juliet: Exactly. No. It shouldn't be like that in medicine and it shouldn't have to be. Of course we know what the cost is.

Laura: Yeah. That's incredible. I'm thinking, "Wow, okay, I know where I'm going the next time I have to go to the doctor."

Juliet: Well we would love to see you. We started out being - our mission was to sort of fill that niche between, "Okay, you know you don't have a life threatening injury but you don't want to go to the grocery store for your care." Maybe you've cut yourself. Maybe you have even broken a bone. In fact we're actually pretty - we're very good at broken bones. I spent ten years as an administrator of an orthopedic practice and I've used a lot of my background in orthopedics to make sure that our staff is incredibly well-trained in those types of injuries. So those are the kind of things that you wouldn't go to a minute clinic for or you wouldn't go to a grocery store clinic for.

Laura: I'm not going to a minute clinic for my dislocated shoulder.

Juliet: Exactly. Exactly. But we could help you with that and maybe save you a lot of money compared to going to an emergency room for that same condition.

Laura: That's fantastic. Thank you so much for being on the show. If people want to visit you online or you have eight different locations now where can they find you?

Juliet: Absolutely. Yes, well we're online at or you can find us around the city. We are in Champions, Copperfield, Memorial Park, Meyerland, Sugar Land, Sienna Plantation, Cinco Ranch and our new location - oh and Clear Lake and our new location is coming up on 99 near Long Meadow Farms.

Laura: Awesome. Well I drive by your Memorial location all the time. So next time I need something I'm going to have to stop in.

Juliet: Great. Well we'll be happy to see you. Thank you for having me.

Laura: Thank you Juliet. I'm Laura Max. I'm your host of the Light Files on brought to you by Audi Central Houston. You can find us every week on and on the radio on Sunday at noon on News 92 FM. We'll see you next week. Bye everyone.

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