How an orthopedic entrepreneur conquers fear, business obstacles & more — 6 Qs with Dr. Will Kurtz

Written by Angie Stewart | April 10, 2019 | Print  |

At least three times a week, orthopedic surgeon Will Kurtz, MD, hears patients say, "I wish I hadn't waited so long to have this surgery."

The reason patients delay surgery is often fear, Dr. Kurtz told Becker's Spine Review. To help patients overcome those concerns, Dr. Kurtz decided to launch Reviews from Friends, an anonymous chat messaging service connecting prospective patients with former patients.

Dr. Kurtz discussed how the service can help orthopedic surgeons like himself, as well as what challenges he's encountered as an entrepreneur.

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for style and length.

Question: What is the value proposition of Reviews from Friends?

Dr. Will Kurtz: In 2014, 14 million unique patients in the United States were diagnosed with knee arthritis, according to an Arthritis Foundation study. Approximately 7 million of those were told their knee arthritis was bad enough to need a knee replacement. Only 700,000 patients had a knee replacement. The other 90 percent of patients were likely too scared to have surgery. Fear of the unknown is probably the biggest deterrent to surgery.

Reviews from Friends connects prospective patients with their friends who have had a particular surgery, so these prospective patients can overcome their fears and have surgery with the same surgeon, hospital and implant as their friend. We drive volume to good surgeons, hospitals and implant companies. We are free for patients and surgeons and charge hospitals and implant companies a fee for each conversation.

Q: What are the biggest hurdles you've encountered with the startup?

WK: Signing up customers, building a team and attracting investors all require a full-time leader of your business. Since it was unreasonable for me to quit my orthopedic practice (golden handcuffs), I had to accept that I could not be the leader of my startup and have it grow. Since hiring a full-time CEO, Reviews from Friends has shown remarkable growth.

Q: Can you explain how you've handled data and privacy concerns?

WK: We take privacy very seriously. Our whole platform is anonymous. My former patients are listed on my website anonymously. The chat messaging is also anonymous. Therefore, both prospective patients and former patients completely control their own privacy. They can reveal their own name and/or contact information in the chat message or remain anonymous. When we use our matching algorithm (Facebook and Google contacts) to tell a prospective patient that they probably know one of our former patients, we still don't reveal the former patient's name.

Q: What are the biggest wins you've had so far with Reviews from Friends?

WK: At the patient level, we have had some amazing former patients who have selflessly helped coach other patients through their orthopedic journeys. These former patients have such unique insight that they can deliver patient education that is more relevant and personalized than the standard joint replacement boot camp.

At a business level, we have been reasonably successful at signing up implant companies. We bridge the divide between implant companies and their patients and provide these implant companies with social proof on their website.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you've received as a surgeon-entrepreneur?

WK: Only start down this road if you are passionate enough about the concept to commit 10 to 15 years of your life to it. Every innovation in healthcare takes twice as long (and costs twice as much) as it would in any other industry. Don't think you are going to get rich, because odds are you will never recover your investment when you consider the time you will spend starting your business.

Q: What is the OrthoFounders Forum and what can orthopedic entrepreneurs gain from joining?

WK: OrthoFounders is a free networking group for orthopedic surgeons who have had a substantial role in starting a company. Everyone in the group knows firsthand how hard starting a business is, so we naturally try to help each other out. We try out each other's products, share pearls and pitfalls, act as a sounding board, and introduce each other to influential people in orthopedics.

If you are interested in joining OrthoFounders, visit www.orthofounders.com. To participate in future Becker's Q&As, contact Angie Stewart at astewart@beckershealthcare.com.

For a deeper dive into ASC industry trends, attend the Becker's 17th Annual Future of Spine + The Spine, Orthopedic & Pain Management-Driven ASC Conference in Chicago, June 13-15, 2019. Click here to learn more and register.

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