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Exercise is an integral part of staying healthy, especially as we experience increased rates of chronic disease diagnoses.
“Chronic diseases are the greatest cause of death worldwide and in Canada, deaths due to chronic disease are rising,” says Sara Hodson, Founder and President of LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic. “Scientific evidence continues to mount supporting the numerous medical benefits of exercise to help treat and prevent our most prevalent chronic diseases.”
She opened her first clinic in 2011, specializing in medical fitness programs customized to address chronic health issues. Supplementing the practice is a new integrated digital health suite for patients, physicians, and coaches.
Learn more about LIVE WELL below.
What is LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic?
LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic is the first chronic disease-focused chain of medical fitness clinics in Canada that bridges the gap between clinical care and traditional gyms. We are part of an emerging trend to use exercise as medicine to help Canadians live healthier for longer and save the healthcare system millions of dollars.
What does LIVE WELL do?
At LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic we aim to create a solution to the growing pandemic of chronic disease by designing highly-engaging and effective ways to inspire lasting behavior change in anyone at risk for chronic disease. At our five clinics, we specialize in helping sedentary people improve their lifestyle by offering medically-designed, customized fitness programs, nutritional counseling, goal-setting, and healthy habit formation in a supportive and supervised environment.
LIVE WELL leverages a custom digital health suite to deliver world-class service and health monitoring to its members. When we got into business, keeping track of member programs, health goals, and medical records was a huge challenge for us. To solve this, we developed our own innovative custom software system which allows each clinic to maintain quality healthcare records and reporting while also efficiently delivering program content, scheduling member exercise sessions, managing its members, and to manage communications with referring physicians.
We have also recently developed a new health coaching app which connects our members with their health coach when they are not in the clinic. This app allows us to expand our intense local experience and continue our member experience outside the walls of our clinics to keep them engaged as they go about their daily lives. We have seen it improve our average length of stay and our member retention.
Why did you start LIVE WELL?
While working in cardiac rehab, I constantly came across people looking for a supervised program that would help them start a new exercise regime and make lifestyle changes. People were looking for a solution that was action-oriented, not just education based, meaning they wanted help implementing healthy behaviours. I wanted to create a program that would help people learn to exercise and change their lifestyle before they had a heart attack, in order to avoid it. After presenting the business concept at a physician’s dinner where the idea was received with unanimous interest, people started attending my first clinic from as far away as a 45-minute drive.
Since our launch in 2011, we have continued to pursue this unique but growing market and meet our members’ needs – to listen to them and create a brand and experience curated for them. Our approach in working with doctors has been a successful strategy that has allowed us to implement a program and leverage a client that is truly unique.
What are you trying to achieve with LIVE WELL?
The reality for a practicing family doctor is that they don’t have time to have the conversation with patients about how exercise can improve their health. At LIVE WELL we have developed a simple, realistic, yet highly-successful model for empowering our members to change their lives for the better.
We are on a mission to design highly-engaging and effective ways to inspire lasting behavior change in anyone at risk for chronic disease. We are leading the movement of exercise as medicine in Canada while tackling prevention medicine in a new and realistic way that lowers the burden of healthcare costs in this country. LIVE WELL serves this need, and is very different from other alternatives.
Physicians can now tell their patient they need to make lifestyle changes and then refer that patient to us at LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic, much like they would refer someone with a rotator cuff injury to a physiotherapist. We then follow up and communicate with the doctor how their patient is doing and how exercise is impacting their medical outcomes. This is how we have built a network of over 800 referring physicians in the Lower Mainland in the last six years.
What impact has LIVE WELL made in healthcare?
We have helped over 3,000 people change their lifestyles and overcome health issues and personal barriers. Many of our members have lost significant amounts of weight, lowered their cholesterol levels, reduced or gone off blood pressure medications and some have even been able to go off insulin.
Ultimately, our members are reducing doctor visits, reducing and even eliminating the need for some pharmaceutical medications, and improving their mental health, heart health, bone health and lowering their blood pressure, blood sugars, cholesterol, resting heart rates, and body weight. This is how we are transforming preventative medicine.
What are some major milestones and successes?
Since we opened our first clinic in 2011, we now have over 800 referring physicians sending their patients to our clinics. In the past year, our active membership has grown 43%. As we now begin franchising, we have sold 11 locations within the last nine months and opened two new clinics in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia. Our first two franchise locations grew to 75+ members in their first three months. This can be attributed to our unique concept, the culture we have created within our company and the experience we have created for our members – a caring, fun, social, inspiring community to be immersed in.
Where are you headed next? Where and how do you see your company growing?
We are entering a high-growth phase after having launched our franchise system in late 2016. Our five-year plan is to have 75 locations within Canada. We were recently listed as #18 on Business in Vancouver’s Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in BC (2017) with a 5-year revenue growth rate of 596%.
We currently have three corporate locations, two open franchise locations, and eight franchise clinics being built, including our first location in Toronto. We also intend to create key U.S. partnerships, with the goal being 75 locations in the U.S.
What problems did you face along the way?
Keeping track of member programs, health goals, medical records was a huge challenge. To solve this, we created our own innovative custom software system that allows each clinic to maintain quality healthcare records and reporting while also efficiently deliver program content, manage its members, and communicate with referring physicians.
We have come to MedStack for their compliance regulation knowledge, policies and procedures, and infrastructure for our system. Their expertise is invaluable and needed as we scale across Canadian provinces and into the U.S. When we went with MedStack we got all of this on day one. They let us focus on LIVE WELL specific application development, not healthcare compliant infrastructure.