Business

The pandemic accelerated healthcare up the list of priorities for family offices but many are complacent, says health entrepreneur

Jordan Shlain, founder of Private Medical, is baffled by people who are wealthy enough to access top-quality healthcare, but don’t get round to using it.

“I have people that have a Ferrari collection but they don’t want to spend money on a $1,000 cancer test.”

Luckily, particularly when it comes to health issues, Shlain knows how to bring people round. He says his company is retained by more than eight hundred family offices that can draw on its team of 52 doctors and nurses, plus software and coordinators. 

Before the pandemic, Shlain reckons healthcare was seventh in line of priority for many family offices: “After the pandemic, it went to number one.”

Shlain also makes it his job to stay in touch with top surgeons and academic researchers, who keep him up to speed with the medical advances, to benefit his clients. 

He says we should soon hear about treatments for Covid-19 whose success could lead to its eradication. He is not convinced that family office principals can live their dream of eternal life any time soon. But he believes cellular research should soon extend spans of good health by five or ten years.

Private Medical offers families a profound level of advice and access to top-rated specialists. It cannot offer share tips but it does come up with intelligence on biotech projects which might be worth backing: “Now we’re big enough we can even batch-test some of them.” 

Jordan Shlain

Shlain has built his business up over twenty years, after an early career as a doctor in San Francisco, where he was supposed to see 15 to 20 patients a day, but never had the time. Seeing value in a more rarified atmosphere he went on to advise guests at a luxury hotel, which morphed into family office advice.

He was sufficiently confident to speak truth to power, explaining, for example, why family offices can’t rely on the recommendations of their peers, or why medical solutions can be in the mind, rather than a bottle of pills. 

Over the years, Shlain backed several venture capital opportunities, such as client engagement tool HealthLoop, but more recently concluded he could make more impact on health, and wealth, through Private Medical: “You can make a big difference to a lot of people by making a big difference to a few people, who want to be forward-thinking. If there’s a way to teach the things I’m learning to the broader population, I’d love that.”  

He sets out to offer a more holistic service to its clients than concierge doctors. He compares Private Medical to fiduciary management, where teams seek to prevent medical problems and persuade people to look after themselves.

“I like to tell people I come from the future and I need to understand what their future might look like. And if I do a really good job organising your future, being very proactive and preventative, I’m going to have fewer interactions that are reactive and less need to fix things that break.”

To stay on the right of people, charm is a weapon: “I tell people that when you sign up with us, I am 70% doctor, 15% psychologist, 10% priest, 4% bartender and 1% friend because you need all that to have somebody you can trust.”

He takes steps to pre-warn clients of the potential impact of treatments, or tests, to pre-empt the shock of bad news which can have an impact on well-being. 

He believes mental and physical health should be viewed as part of the same challenge. He recently decided one client with drinking problems and liver issues actually needed antidepressants because his underlying problem was anxiety. Sadly, the client has yet to be convinced. But Shlain is working on it. 

Shlain likes to argue that good health equates to freedom to move around the cabin of life. Less fortunate individuals are shackled to medical care for life so prevention of disease is a priority.

He says if he gets clients young enough – say 35 or 40 – he can work to keep them free of disease in later life. “I would say I can increase their healthy lifespan by 5 to 10 years. But science is advancing so fast that we could easily see it pushed out by 5 to 10 years, then another.” 

Around 20% to 30% of longevity is derived from your genes. So genetic data, presented in the right way can confirm where your vulnerabilities lurk and persuade you to improve your lifestyle: “But it’s not just the test, it’s about the universe that surrounds it.” Shain says some tests are better developed than others, requiring input from advisers on which to choose, as well as interpretation of the results.

Will people live forever? “I don’t think so. But there’s a whole bunch of people trying to unlock ageing. I’ve just been talking to a guy from Harvard, who has stumbled on a way to slow cells down, reducing their wear, without slowing their function. If that’s true, and you stick to exercise and your plant-based diet you might add a bunch of years. If you eat processed foods you could be messing with your microbiome – the three trillion cells living in your large intestine that actually are your second brain. Those bugs are responsible for 90% of the serotonin your body makes.”

Serotonin makes you happy, and that can definitely produce a longer life: “It helps with social connections and there’s no pill for that. Facebook, processed foods, gambling, sugary drinks only cater to dopamine, which is hacking our body to keep getting its fix.   

He is interested in longevity research into senolytics, which clear out exhausted cells. The body does this naturally, through autophagy, but can leave some behind, potentially triggering senility.

“We’re ten minutes into a game of healthspan soccer, and it’s hard to see how things are going to play out. I’m planning to explore research into longevity over the next year or two to get a clearer view.”  He quips that when he’s finished, he’ll have to start again, because science is developing so quickly.

Private Medical charges its members a ballpark $40,000 per year. Not exactly cheap? “Compared to what families might pay a gardener, or a chef, that’s a lot. But health is a critical pillar for a family office. And if you are not investing in your health, what are you spending your money on?  More money?”

Before the pandemic, Shlain reckons healthcare was seventh in line of priority for many family offices: “After the pandemic, it went to number one.”

“I’ve been waiting for a pandemic my whole life and I knew what was going to happen when it struck. Back in December 2019, I started buying PPE, protective gear for my practice.” Shlain bought every Covid test he could find. He volunteered for triage duty in tents on the New York sidewalk.

“We were able to pivot. We’d given webinars to family offices, as well as private banks and wealthy investors. We told 11,000 at a webinar hosted by UBS how to avoid a pandemic before we all locked down. We showed we’d come from the future.”

In his future, Shlain compares Covid-19 to a piece of furniture: “It will be part of our lives for quite some time.” But there is hope: “Fluovamine and a drug from Merck are screaming down the pipeline. If they turn those drugs into treatments, it’s game over.”

 

 

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