Based in San Francisco, California, Ara Chackerian has made a name for himself in the world of business and philanthropy. So much of Chackerian’s work has been focused on community-based efforts. Much of his career has been spent in the healthcare field, where he has decades of experience in building the bridge between technology and healthcare services. He currently sits on a number of boards in the Bay Area. In addition to his interest in Healthcare, Ara Chackerian has a deep interest in environmental and youth development causes.
One such environmental focus is a sustainable teak farm in Nicaragua – Limonapa Teak. Limonapa utilizes environmentally-friendly agricultural practices so that the operations enhance, rather than spoil the local environment. Additionally, the farm provides hundreds of good-paying jobs for residents of the local communities.
We recently sat down with Mr Chackerian to discuss one of his latest ventures, TMS Health Solutions, what drives him, entrepreneurship, and more.
Can you tell us what gave you the idea for your latest venture?
My long time business partner and I wanted to extend our experience in building out-patient diagnostic radiology centers to another area of healthcare. We spent over a decade building a network of centers in Northern California. One of our long-time provider partners suggested that we take a look at the outpatient psychiatry space, particularly, a new device based treatment for depression called transcranial magnetic stimulation.
What seemed promising about this form of treatment?
Our research into the technology and treatment lead us to the realization that TMS had the potential to become the third pillar of psychiatric care, along with medication and talk therapy. The efficacy of the treatment, particularly for patients suffering from major depressive disorder was startling good. This lead us to ask the question – why is there so little awareness and access to the treatment?
What was your conclusion?
In a serendipitous meeting with one of the preeminent TMS thought leaders, “Dr. Richard Bermudas”, we began to understand the structural impediment to access. Rich had been utilizing TMS in his Sacramento practice since its FDA approval in 2008. He learned the hard way about limited insurance coverage policies, the difficulties of hiring and retaining quality technicians, and the realities of trying to run a group practice while still being a clinician. In many respects, it’s hard for doctors to be doctors in our system.
So you saw this as an opportunity to make a contribution?
Rich’s passion and fundamental belief that TMS had the potential to help thousands of people suffering from medication-resistant depression were infectious. He wanted to expand access and we believed that together with our experience in building outpatient facilities, we had the potential to create something special.
Can you explain your venture?
Our vision was to design a care delivery model that both enabled the patient and physician to achieve their desired outcome in a way that incorporated a ‘patient first’ methodology, both in terms of experience and treatment.
How is it progressing?
Since we formed our partnership just over two years ago, we’ve built seven new facilities serving the broader San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. Our typical facility is 3,000 square ft with both consult and TMS treatment rooms. We want patients to feel as though they are not going to the doctor’s office but rather to a place of serenity and relaxation which is particularly important for patients with psychiatric disorders.
How have you been able to see your dreams come to fruition?
Ideas come from life experiences. If you make a conscious effort to engage life then ideas will come. It’s a pretty simple formula. My parents encouraged this behavior when I was young, so once again, my ability to come up with ideas is nothing more than being fortunate enough to have been raised in an environment that encouraged thinking hard about life.
Can you tell us about any trends that your attention as of late?
Digital healthcare is a trend that I’m following closely. Telemedicine and digital assisted healthcare apps have the potential to bring tremendous value to the healthcare system. For example, patients that are entering a phase of depression tend to change their communication patterns both in terms of speech pacing and frequency of communication. Algorithms have the ability to pick-up these behavior changes that can help patients and providers to assess deterioration and/or improvement in one’s behavioral health. It’s a remarkably exciting time on this front.
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