Voyage MIA Interview with Rachel Puri

Voyage MIA Interview with Rachel Puri

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rachel Puri.

Hi Rachel, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers.
The vision of Lina was born from the understanding that independent healthcare practitioners like doctors, therapists, and many other types of health and wellness providers in private practice are overburdened and are struggling with unnecessary operational headaches that often get in their way of treating their patients.  These challenges make it difficult for providers to launch, operate and grow their practices and often either prevent them from going into private practice in the first place or lead to early retirement.

Yet research shows that the highest quality of care comes from physicians and other healthcare specialists who have the freedom and time to practice on their terms. Healthcare providers who work for large healthcare systems and hospitals often report that they have little to no control over their schedules, patient load or treatment protocols they are required to adhere to which may not always align with what they may think is in the best interest of the patients they treat.

We have data that shows physician burnout rates were on the rise and physician suicide rates were among the highest of any other profession. This was true even before the pandemic.

Typically, when a doctor or therapist wants to start a private practice they must be prepared to deal with landlords, long lease terms, and high upfront expenses, not to mention spending their valuable time on actually managing their practice. Things like HIPAA and OSHA compliance, facility maintenance, secure Wi-Fi, staff management, patient check-in and countless other operational responsibilities must be managed and mastered if they are to run a successful private practice. Yet, none of these things have anything to do with their training or their actual training or patient care.   Doctors are trained in diagnosing illness and treating patients, not running a business.

These burdens are very real as healthcare providers face enormous pressures from all sides – insurance companies, large healthcare employers, and patients themselves as our population is only getting sicker. Yet, who is supporting independent doctors and other healthcare providers in private practice? Unlike many other types of professionals and business owners who can benefit from the support and flexibility of a shared office space, this group of business owners cannot simply set up their practice in any other type of flexible office environment because typical co-working spaces lack the specialized support that is required to run a medical practice.

Virtually any other type of professional and business can enjoy the benefits and flexibility offered by well-known coworking spaces like WeWork, Industrious, and many other flexible office providers. This was true back in 2009 when the concept of  “co-working” was just being born, true in 2017 when we first launched our space and is still true today – 2 years into a worldwide pandemic…

In 2016 I was working as a Registered Nurse on a busy Telemetry floor of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Before becoming a Registered Nurse I spent over a decade working in a variety of in-patient and outpatient medical and healthcare facilities. Time and time again my friends and colleagues (those who tried to venture into their own private practice) shared their stories and frustrations of the challenges they faced operating their practices,  challenges that had nothing to do with actual patient care.

In late 2017, my partner and I launched our first space in New York.  Vicrum’s prior experience in business and real estate development, and my background and passion for healthcare coupled with some understanding of the pain points of healthcare providers in private practice, gave us a unique combination of skill sets to at least give our idea a try. We poured all we had into it.

We poured all our time, our money and sweat into Lina as if it was our baby – our 3rd baby actually – since earlier that year we welcomed into this world our beautiful twins. Lina was officially launched when they were just 4 months old. Within the first 6 months of opening, we knew that we must have hit a nerve in the market. Our location was over 90% full with over 200 medical, mental health, and other types of healthcare providers all practicing independently under one roof.

We knew we were onto something important but for this idea to have a real chance and impact we knew we needed additional funding to grow. Ultimately, we were successful in raising our first small venture round which led to continued growth and expansion of Lina.

Although medical co-working may be the easiest way to describe Lina, our model goes well beyond the operations of a typical coworking space. Although flexibility and cost savings are at the foundation of our model, we have a stable and consistent customer base.  Our practitioners call Lina their home and we are proud of our 99% retention rates – not typical of a traditional coworking model. Our membership plans cater to a wide range of specialists and can accommodate the needs of providers at any point in their careers – those just starting out, established group practices or providers at the end of their career looking to scale back. We curate and place great thought into the type of support services and amenities we offer that support their private practices. We also think about their patients and what their experience is like when they walk through the doors at Lina to receive treatment.

We pride ourselves in having created a space that offers freedom and independence for providers to practice on their terms.  Lina practitioners can enjoy all the benefits of private practice while minimizing overhead, but still surrounded by like-minded colleagues – this setup benefits the providers, their practices, and most importantly their patients.

We often hear from patients how convenient it is to come to one location and have the opportunity to see multiple specialists for all their healthcare needs, all under one roof. Having survived the pandemic and now with two locations operating at capacity in NY and with the launch of our new space – Lina Aventura –  we are more motivated now than ever before to continue our mission of growing Lina nationally.  We are truly humbled by all the feedback we receive from providers and patients alike expressing gratitude for Lina’s existence.  Hearing their feedback makes it ever clear to us that what Lina offers is truly of value especially in today’s world where our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is on the line. Supporting the needs of those who care for us has never been more important than today.

Lina was named in honor of my Grandmother – Polina. My Grandmother was a family physician at a time and place when becoming a female doctor was no small feat. She survived war, famine, and discrimination of all types and overcame many challenges in her life. She lived her life with incredible strength, grace, and determination while maintaining a beautiful bright light and spirit. She was and continues to be an inspiration to how I try to live my life. Our daughter, Polina was also named in her honor.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Launching and operating Lina although incredibly rewarding, has been anything but a smooth road. Lina was born almost at the same time as our twins. Balancing the launch of a brand-new startup company with the care of 2 newborns in a small two-bedroom apartment in Brooklyn – with little sleep for days at a time was just the beginning.  The next challenge was to keep the company going in those first few crucial months when funds were tight.

A common term in the startup world is “bootstrapping it”.   My partner and I invested all we had into the business. We picked our first space because of the many gorgeous windows – something (we relied on as a big draw to help us fill the space) highly desired by practitioners who spent most of their days inside one small office. One month into our launch, all the beautiful windows of our space were fully covered up with dirty, gray plastic as the building owners decided to put up scaffolding along our floor and begin a year-long exterior renovation project. Many of those first days began with drilling right outside the window of a newly signed up therapist who was about to begin a patient therapy session. When all other negotiation attempts failed I found an effective technique of climbing out of the window onto the exterior scaffolding on the 18th floor(in my nice heels) begging the guys to please move to another side of the building by an empty office not to disrupt the therapy session of our brand new client and their patient – I was pleasantly surprised that this strategy worked, at least temporarily.

This lasted for 8 long painful months, and I have no idea how this did not send all our new members out the door and killed our brand-new business for good.

NYC became the hardest hit state during those first few months of the pandemic. Many of our psychotherapists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and so many other health and wellness professionals could no longer treat their patients safely, they were forced into lockdown, many of their patients left the city, and so this is how the snowball effect began.

Our clients were actively losing their clients and watched their successful businesses crumble overnight. We ultimately lost 40% of our member base during that time. We had to manage our panic and fear with our customers’ panic and fear, who were losing their livelihoods in front of theirs and our eyes. We were completely squeezed and  stuck in the middle of our customers requesting financial relief and financial obligations of our own.

We had to manage and figure out how to continue staying open during those first few months to accommodate the needs of those doctors who continued to rely on our space to provide essential care. We had to manage the work and safety of our own remaining small team all while taking care of our 3-year-old twins at home…… We were able to offer some (much-needed financial relief) to our members.

We ultimately were successful in readjusting our operations to stay open even during the worst of the lockdown. We navigated the most stressful part of the pandemic while staying open and allowing patients to receive essential care out of our locations – while mitigating the spread of covid. We avoided any covid outbreak or spread in our spaces – something we are proud of.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Lina?
Many independent practitioners launch private practices for greater job satisfaction and higher salaries than their employed counterparts and for the freedom to provide care on their terms. But high medical school debt combined with the subsequent onslaught of startup, overhead, leasing, and other steep business costs make achieving such autonomy seemingly impossible.

Our vision and mission at Lina is to help lessen the financial burden and burnout for solo healthcare practitioners and reverse their decline, which has dropped to less than 50% in the US. By offsetting increasingly steep costs — including labor, staffing, operating, and real estate — and providing turnkey suites, a supportive community, and flexible membership options, Lina has championed physicians to flourish and retain their autonomy. Everything from our our elevated environment to our administrative services enables the well-being of our physicians as much as their patients

Lina is the first of its kind to re-imagine the co-working space for physicians, enabling them to benefit from a shared economy while retaining their much-valued independence. Catering to a wide range of healthcare specialists while accommodating them in every stage of their careers, Lina now operates three locations in New York and South Florida with plans for further expansion.

What were you like growing up?
I was born in a small eastern European country, Moldova, at that time it was still part of the former Soviet Union. As a child, I moved a lot and my family ultimately settled in Brooklyn NY in the early 1990s where I grew up and lived most of my life. I was always quiet and shy but having to move a lot during my early years has built up my resilience and taught me to keep working hard no matter the obstacles.  I love meeting new people and creating real, authentic connections, but I am still very much an introvert.

Since childhood and for as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by and drawn to science, healthcare, and medicine. Both my grandmother and my mother worked in the medical field, and I have fond childhood memories of visiting them during their work in hospitals and medical office settings where they worked.  Their passion and love of medicine ultimately influenced my journey and led me to Lina – a space and a concept that we believe has great potential to cause ripple effects of positive improvements in the delivery and quality of healthcare in our county.

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