A UK-based medical specialist focusing on areas such as preventative measures has created a business targeted at affluent individuals. He has words of advice for wealth managers themselves.
A few weeks ago this publication examined the world of healthcare and medical emergency services catering specifically for affluent and ultra-wealthy individuals. Such offerings fit with the “full balance sheet” approach to life. It’s not all about the money. Clients want to be healthy enough to get the most out of life, and to be around for their offspring and friends.
In its feature on this matter, WealthBriefing spoke to Mark Ali, founder of The Private Harley Street Clinic. Ali founded this business in 2012 and is a consultant heart surgeon. He qualified with an MBBS from University College Hospital School of Medicine in 1989 and was made a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1993. He was accepted onto the London Pan Thames Surgical Rotation Scheme in 1995 and when he completed this, was accredited on the GMC specialist register as a cardiothoracic surgeon and was created a Specialist Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 2002. In that same year, Ali was appointed as a consultant at La Pitie Salpetriere, in Paris. He was appointed as a consultant in the NHS in 2004 and has been a consultant in private practice since 2009. He continues to be an honorary consultant in Paris.
His training sparked a lifelong interest in the field of molecular medicine, at a time when few appreciated what would become possible. It soon became clear to him that the advances in medical science, and the technology that surrounded it, would create an opportunity to change our approach to diagnosis and treatment.
Created in 2009, the clinic embraces technology to help deliver his vision of preventative medicine. Ali blended technical, medical and molecular advances to create the Liferisk Assessment, an advanced evaluation of the major, organic threats to life namely, cancer, heart disease and strokes. The cornerstone of this assessment is what Ali said is the world’s first high-definition, low dose CT scanner. The scanner “delivers definitive answers about your medical future and allows you to make informed decisions about your health and well-being”.
Ali continues to be the clinic’s Responsible Officer, overseeing clinical governance and clinical standards. In addition to the Liferisk Assessment, the clinic’s Platinum Service gives clients assurance, Ali says, that they’ll get best-in-class surgeons and physicians from across the world for a range of treatments and procedures at any time in that year. Ali says his business does the job of finding and curating a bench of top medical talent.
What is clear is that technology plays a big role in making assessments and fast handling of data possible. The organisation is also an example of how the medical, technological and financial worlds intersect.
How has business been in the years since you started? Has it lived up to your hopes, exceeded them? Are there areas you would have tackled differently another time around?
I would say that my expectations have been exceeded as more people are becoming very open and receptive to this concept than I imagined. I would probably have offered a cheaper option to allow more people to take advantage of our expertise. We now do offer two cheaper options which still provide excellent and worthwhile information if not the full works, so to speak.
How many specialists are listed on your platform and where do they come from?
Our specialist panel has continued to grow and includes over 1,000 consultants based worldwide but centred mainly in London.
What was the Platinum Service set up to tackle? Had there been a gap in the field prior to this and what alerted you to it?
The service was set up to address a niche need in the market, namely 24/7 access to the very best medical specialists. I was aware of the gap in the market as it became obvious during my years as a cardiac surgeon in private practice that navigating one’s way in the medical field was quite difficult for a layman with no knowledge or means of identifying who the best specialists were.
Do such business models operate in other countries such as the US?
I am aware that other similar companies also operate especially in the states. However, we are the only clinic in London and Europe that provides such a rigorous and definitive health assessment.
What led to the Liferisk assessment venture?
The Liferisk assessment was created when medical technology evolved sufficiently to provide a proper, definitive ability to predict and pre-empt disease. When I started out in cardiac surgery, the only way to define the state of a patient’s coronary arteries was to perform a coronary angiogram which required intubation of the coronary arteries with a catheter, with its attendant risks.
What does the Liferisk assessment do and how in your view does it stand apart from what else might be there?
Imaging technology evolved in the early 2000s to allow us to perform a non-invasive CT scan of the coronary arteries. This was the real game changer as it allowed us for the first time to safely predict coronary artery disease without having to subject a patient to the intervention of a formal coronary angiogram. At the same time, it became possible to do a CT scan of a patient’s colon which gave us non-invasive images without having to perform an invasive formal colonoscopy, again carrying its attendant risks. These two imaging techniques revolutionised the possibilities for health screening and the Liferisk assessment was born with these investigations at the core of the screening process.
The Liferisk assessment is unique and stands apart because it has a pure remit of providing definitive answers to the question that any sensible person would ask: Am I at risk of heart disease, cancer, strokes or any major disease? The precision of our answer sets us apart. For example, instead of performing an exercise stress test which at best just gives a possible indication of coronary artery disease, we generate a real-time 3D reconstruction of a client’s coronary arteries with exact dimensions.
What has been the takeup of your Liferisk assessment venture been so far? How many clients do you have? What sort of growth targets are there?
We have performed several hundred assessments together with our partners and we anticipate growth to be rapid in the coming years as companies begin to understand the concept of adding definitive screening to private healthcare packages.
More broadly, in your view how big an issue do we have of people, often highly successful financially, neglecting their health, both physical and mental? What can and should be done to frame conversations about this?
It still remains a big issue to get a private individual to confront the issue of his or her personal health - it’s mainly a culture thing but as I alluded to earlier, that’s changing with more awareness and education. Also third parties like the HR department or a partner often take the lead in referral. Conversations with HR teams and educational leaflets, videos, Facebook and social media all perform a role in education.
Are you contacting wealth managers and other advisors to HNW individuals about this sort of business? Is there potential from the life insurance, critical medical cover insurance, other, sectors?
We are in dialogue with a number of the wealth management industry with promising results and we also think that there is a symbiotic strategy to be had with insurance companies and we are at an early stage of discussion with a number of companies about this.
Wealth management professionals themselves can live stressful, unhealthy lives. What advice do you think they should get?
I would give the same information to wealth management professionals, educate them about the possibility of a having a painless, non-invasive screening process lasting just three hours that could potentially change the shape of their and their family’s future.
Where are you based? Who else works with you? Any plans to expand?
We are based in Harley Street near Oxford Circus in the centre of London. We partner with a number of imaging centres located close by and we plan to expand to offer our brand of Liferisk assessment to other major cities in Europe and Asia.
Are there other points you want to make about the state of medicine as it applies to your clients?
I think that most lay individuals would be genuinely surprised to learn that they have the ability to change their future using modern advances in medical technology. They probably don't know that it takes just three hours of their time to potentially add 30 years of life and good health to their future - all of this without making any changes to their diet, lifestyle and exercise.