Mike Hough, U.S. founder of Advance Medical, on offering alternative medical options to workers

Advance Medical provides additional healthcare options to workers. (Getty/anyaberkut)

Mike Hough, U.S. founder of Advance Medical, is out to cut companies’ healthcare costs and days lost to illness by offering employees alternate medical options.

Since 2005, he has overseen the U.S. operations of a global company that was started in Spain in 1999. It provides medical services that supplement traditional healthcare coverage.

Hough’s past professional ventures have always been with companies that are in the medical field—Amgen, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Biogen Idec and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals—so Advance Medical was a good fit.

“I recognized a void in the U.S. healthcare market,” Hough told FierceCEO. “After learning about Advance Medical’s success in Spain and the European market I realized that bringing the company to the U.S. would be a good idea.”

Many people “are frustrated by the abbreviated visit times they have with physicians and offering Advance Medical as an employee benefit would, among other things, be a lucrative benefit for managers looking to recruit new employees,” Hough added.

Advance Medical is a health benefit that employers offer their employees at no charge. The service is used when an employee has a medical condition and wants more information about their diagnosis or treatment plan so they can move forward with more confidence. After contacting Advance Medical all of the employee’s medical documents are gathered and physicians that specialize in the employee’s condition review the records and issue opinions. The employee receives a report with each doctor’s recommendation, information about alternative treatments (if appropriate) and answers questions the employee has submitted, along with recommendations for next steps.

Advance Medical “is a service that employers are investing in for their employees,” Hough said. “This is a secondary medicine service that advocates for employees, guiding them every step of their patient journey to help them achieve their ideal health outcome.”

Advance Medical counts among its clients J.B. Hunt Transport, Cisco Systems and American Airlines, Hough said.

Fast Five with Mike Hough

How do you hire?

Fit is everything. We have a principles-led, high-performance culture. Passion for saving lives, compassion and a customer service acumen are essential. These are intrinsic qualities. Without those an employee won’t be successful. With those, there is almost nothing that they can’t do here.

What are some of the company's challenges?

In the mid-2010s, a deluge of health IT investment created a few new, well-financed competitors. The issue was that these were IT companies applying their consumer tools to healthcare, whereas Advance Medical is a healthcare company that uses technology to achieve better health outcomes. And, unfortunately, we were challenged by the peaks of expectation and the troughs of disappointment that the new competitors brought to the marketplace. We had to adapt and bring on the technology that was helpful to patient care and also help the market understand that this was still about helping sick people, who have a whole different mindset than other consumers.

Mistakes you’ve made?

We missed the opportunity to communicate loudly in front of the entrance of new competitors. We were so focused on internal developments that we missed reading the market. We’ve made up for it now. But, we did allow new entrants to get a foothold that should have been much more difficult in our market.

What do you feel is the most important quality in a leader?

Being able to stay true to the mission, and then demonstrating again and again how it benefits all stakeholders.

Any career advice?

Leveraging two absolute all-stars: Peter Drucker says the best way to predict the future is to create it. And Wayne Gretzky says to skate to where the puck is going, not where it’s been. Highly successful careers are made by seeing what’s needed down the line and then creating that. That is not just for new products, but also internal processes.