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Caring Concern

[ 0 ] May. 1, 2009 | SBO Editor

In the vast machinery of the American workplace, Patricia Maisano was a vital cog. A registered nurse by training and an expert in case management, Maisano started her own consulting firm outside Philadelphia in 1991, assisting insurance companies, major corporations and unions in disability case management.

Maisano was extremely successful—but having served on various boards and having worked with a variety of associations focused on the needs of the elderly and disabled —she wanted to do more. Exactly what she would do was crystallized by a phone call she took in 1997.

Maisano received a call from a woman frantic for help in dealing with care issues for her elderly mother. As they talked, Maisano realized the woman’s needs weren’t that much different from the help she was providing her clients. After telling the caller she would be able to help her, Maisano curiously asked how the woman had gotten her number since her firm didn’t advertise.

“She found my name in a research book at the library,” said Maisano, who found out later that her staff received similar calls on a regular basis but told callers the firm worked on only a business-to-business basis. “It made me realize how desperate her need was and the other calls we had gotten drove home the fact that this was a real problem.”

That same year, Maisano began to develop a business plan that would reshape her company and address the many frustrations inherent in integrated health management for the disabled and elderly. She wanted to help families manage short-term health crises and long-term care issues, while ensuring that their loved ones’ wishes and needs weighed most heavily in important decisions.

IKOR was launched in 2000 in the Philadelphia area and today it is the only company of its kind. Unlike other businesses that serve the needs of the elderly and disabled, IKOR does not directly provide care services. Instead, IKOR is an advocate, providing guidance, planning, oversight and implementation of plans designed to address clients’ important life issues, whether medical, environmental, legal or financial, including guardianship and even routine bill payment services.

The services are provided by highly experienced Registered Nurse Health Advocates and Personal Needs Coordinators and help to eliminate the stress of caring for an elderly or disabled individual whether an individual lives with their family or in a facility thousands of miles away.

The vast array of services is customized to a client’s needs and include selecting home healthcare assistance, recommending healthcare facilities or suggesting modifications to help clients remain safely in their home longer. IKOR can coordinate management of medications, facilitate communications with doctors, provide on-site quality assurance monitoring of all care providers, provide professional guardianship services of a person or estate and much more.

Recognizing the critical need for such services, IKOR recently launched a franchising program to deliver its services to clients across the country. Initial growth is being targeted in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Virginia. IKOR expects to award five franchises in 2008 and reach 100 locations nationwide by the end of 2010.

“We are filling a void that is a growing need,” said Maisano, who serves as IKOR’s president and CEO. “The crisis of the elderly is growing. Anyone who invests in an IKOR franchise is going to have the unique opportunity to be the first in this growing market to offer this kind of comprehensive approach to a growing crisis.”

The numbers speak for themselves. There were 37.3 million Americans 65 and older in the United States on July 1, 2006, accounting for 12 percent of the total population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That number is expected to increase to 86.7 million in 2050, with those 65 and older comprising 21 percent of the population. Every hour, 330 people turn 60 across the nation.

Because it serves a large, growing and essentially unmet need, an IKOR franchise holds appeal for professionals in a broad array of industries including nurses, physicians or other medical professionals with administrative and management experience; attorneys with experience in elder law, estate planning or guardianship; accountants who have dealt with family financial issues and others. IKOR has a strong support structure in place for individuals without medical backgrounds.

“We are looking for individuals who have a true desire to help those who need help,” Maisano said. “I believe this is a very personal business and a very personal service. And I think there is a passion that comes from growth through franchisees and their inherent dedication that you don’t necessarily see in corporate branching.”

An IKOR franchise can be operated synergistically with an existing related business and can initially be home-based, though client and staff requirements will typically necessitate moving to office space after one year. The estimated initial investment is affordable, ranging from $53,790 to $84,630. A territory typically has a population of approximately 60,000 disabled persons and/or persons over the age of 65.

IKOR franchise owners become a “voice” for the elderly and disabled. Individuals are living longer with each decade and there is a new focus on “aging in place” and maintaining quality of life. •

Patricia Maisano stands with some of her clients. The registered nurse started the company to provide a wide variety of services to the elderly and disabled. Rather than a direct care company, IKOR’s services include advocacy, guardianship, care planning and coordination. The company’s innovative software makes the franchise a doable business for franchisees with no medical background. All training is provided.

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Category: Magazine, Small Business Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities May 2009