Judges’ Choice Winner of the 2017 Caregiver Accelerator uses life experiences to help others
After years in and out of doctors’ offices and hospitals, Bonnie Brown, once bewildered by insurance and healthcare protocols, became something of an expert. In fact, she decided to turn her personal experience into a tool to help save others from feeling overwhelmed and dispirited.
Bonnie is the founder and CEO of A Better Life, which provides training and resources for health care consumers and caregivers. A Better Life offers training programs in medical advocacy, Medicaid planning, affordable aging and family caregiving. Each program is adapted to offer training online, as well as through videos, audio tapes, books, eBooks and live events to provide all users with convenient options.
Brown is also a certified life coach and Medicaid planner, which factors into her service to help others smoothly maneuver through the healthcare system’s complex web by synthesizing her own life’s lessons and positivity into one consolidated resource.
“I want to make it easier to manage and maneuver through the medical maze,” she said. “I recognize how difficult it is out there. I’ve had now nine operations in 11 years, my last one being three weeks ago, and I also spent 15 years as a professional medical advocate. It’s really challenging.”
Years earlier, if you had asked Bonnie how she chose her doctors, she would have said it was based on convenience. “In my very first surgery, I just showed up to the doctor,” Bonnie said. “I did no research, no homework and just trusted. And it didn’t work out. I got educated real quick.”
When Brown’s past of competitive jet skiing led to a full knee replacement, the challenges she faced while navigating the healthcare system would later contribute to her current entrepreneurial endeavors.
“My bones were literally crushing inside of me and I had no idea,” she said. “It just completely changed my life and my finances because it was very expensive.”
“She’s incredibly knowledgeable in this area,” said affordable aging advocate and long-time friend Tal Bratton. “Every time I’ve seen her touch somebody with this stuff, it’s just absolutely amazing. Even for me because I’ve had medical issues in a lot of my life and didn’t get the message she got of ‘hey, we could fix it.’”
Brown sees a great demand for more resources in this area, with a public often negatively impacted by the complexity of the system. These complexities can particularly affect those with lower socioeconomics or seniors, with factors such as a lack of access to adequate transportation impeding access to quality healthcare.
“I help people struggling with their healthcare and the high cost of healthcare,” said Bonnie. “ Ten thousand people per day turn 65 and there’s going to be over 108 million people that are 50+. They have chronic illness, they have new medical issues, they have high deductibles, shrinking insurance, decreased benefits. They’re confused with the complexity. They’re frustrated. They don’t know where to begin.”
Enter Bonnie’s A Better Life program, but Bonnie needed help to further develop her business so she embarked on an entrepreneurial curriculum through the Caregiver Accelerator. The program is designed to guide entrepreneurs in their efforts to develop a successful business in the caregiving and health technology industry.
Bonnie began the first phase of her efforts in the program nearly a year ago, and her efforts paid off after being selected as the judge’s choice for the 2017 Caregiver Accelerator Pitch Competition held in November. Now, Bonnie has no shortage of plans for the future of her company and is working quickly toward the launch.
“You meet people, you share resources, you help each other and you’re all trying to solve the problem of today but also get to the future,” said Brown. “This program was just amazing. It helped us to get better focused and to go farther faster because we had the support.”
Throughout the Caregiver Accelerator’s initial two month curriculum, Brown formed bonds with her classmates and continues to connect with fellow alumni. This small but passionate group of innovators shares ideas and resources, forging a network of people who help caregivers with their individual skillsets.
“When you have other people in the Caregiver Accelerator program helping you, you benefit not only from having their encouragement and support, but you get people who are in the caregiving business or process who truly understand who you’re trying to help,” said Brown. “They’ve been there in the trenches themselves, and they give you great ideas, so it’s like having your own focus group at all times.”
Bonnie’s plans for the future include a line of merchandise designed to help lighten the load for caregivers when navigating the health care system by providing medical planning materials and instructional resources. She produces these resources with the end goal of alleviating the job of a caregiver and teaching people how to be better patients. Her ideas don’t end here, but she has a few extra surprises planned for the launch.
While no official launch date has yet been announced, Bonnie is hard at work to streamline the process, eager to implement her plans.
“For the first time in my life, I’m taking everything I am and have learned and I’m putting it together into one thing,” she said.