In the late fall of 2019, William Diaz, Founder and Owner of The Patient Portal Group, had a vision that was so clear and so real, he knew it was a sign. As most entrepreneurs do, rather than sitting on the idea, he took action. Utilizing his prior experience as a small business owner and the skill sets he developed in business and throughout his 20 year career in healthcare, Diaz put the wheels in motion to bring his idea to life.
“My journey into healthcare started in New Jersey when I was working as a Director of Operations for a hospital,” Diaz said. “After that experience, I started a private ambulance business. I built that business to about 35 employees and annual gross sales of $1 Million. We were doing well until a wave of new Medicare policies halted reimbursement rates. The new laws basically put us out of business. At that point, I needed a break. I decided in 2015 to move to Florida and left it all behind.”
Diaz initially arrived in Pinellas County where he spent three years working as a paramedic. He eventually relocated to Pasco County and began working as a paramedic for nearby Citrus County. It was in this role where Diaz experienced his life changing vision.
“While working for Citrus County, people I knew kept asking me when I was going to start another business,” Diaz said. “They knew it was going to happen eventually. Around this time, we had a patient die, which triggered a flood of emotions. That’s when I felt an overwhelming desire to do something greater and to make a bigger impact. A few days later, I was driving home from work just after 5am. As I watched the sun come up, I experienced a clear vision of what my next project would be. It was so clear. That’s when I decided to create The Patient Portal Group.”
Diaz shared that the original model for The Patient Portal Group was going to be more of a referral-based business. Using his extensive experience and ability to sell and develop strong relationships, Diaz was going to serve as conduit – helping to guide patients towards the home health and medical services they needed. Unfortunately, after some additional research and discussions with attorneys, he learned that ‘patient brokering’ was illegal. Undeterred, Diaz decided to go in a slightly different direction.
“I decided to open my own home health agency,” he said. “It was time to take care of my own patients, but to also provide them with more than just your standard home health care agency services. I would add in medical research and advocacy. Rather than just taking care of our patients, our goal would be to help them find a cure to their disease or illness and not just hand them more medication. After going through the licensing procedures and paying various fees, we’re now a few months away from launch.”
Diaz, who shared that being patient is one of his biggest challenges to date, is beyond excited to launch his business this spring. He hired a Director of Nursing, who previously worked as an ER Nurse Manager at a hospital he frequently brought patients to. According to Diaz, she believes in his vision and expressed a strong desire to be part of the team. That vision and excitement is fueled by the fact that, what Diaz wants to accomplish is so unique.
“First of all, our Director of Nursing is also a Nurse Practitioner,” he said. “This gives her the ability to prescribe medicine. Patients won’t have to wait to go to the doctor. That’s pretty unique in the home health care industry. We’re also very focused on bringing the most high tech research possible to our patients. Of course we want to focus on comfort, daily living and skilled care, but we’re passionate about bringing new research to families. We want to bring solutions and innovations – not just medicine. If I have to travel to other countries to understand why they’re so effective at treating dementia, I’ll do it. That’s the heart of the whole thing.”
Diaz continued, “As an owner with a background in healthcare, I’m also pretty unique in this industry. A lot of owners are just business people looking to make a buck. They just see it as a business. I want sustainability, but I also want to bring forth evolution and treat all of our clients like family.”
Diaz envisions a business with multiple income streams. His growth strategy involves community outreach programs and targeting non-medical people through private meetings and community health fairs. He anticipates executing his growth strategy much like a running a political campaign. He’ll put out TV and radio ads and will also meet with nursing homes, hospitals and assisted living facilities. The eventual goal is to expand into other states.
“My goal and vision was and is so clear,” he said. “I told my wife that this agency will be big. Based on projections, my plan is to be over a million in revenue my first full year in business. I’ve done it before. I can do it again.”
What advice does Diaz have for aspiring entrepreneurs? “If you can envision yourself working there, opening the door, turning on the lights, answering the phones and you want it more than your desire to breathe, then go for it,” he said. “You need a clear vision. Most people don’t start a business because they’re not crystal clear on what they want to do or how to do it. My vision was so clear. I also want this business to succeed more than I want to breathe. It’s embedded in my brain. If I die, I’ll die trying. That’s the mentality I have. Lastly, it’s important to look at obstacles and failures as learning experiences. Don’t think about failure, but if you do fail, learn from it and move on.”