Neel Ghoshal was 13 years old when his life changed.
Born in 1978 to Sam and Pritha Ghoshal, who immigrated from India eight years before the pursuit of the American dream, Neel grew up in the Northeast.
There were moments of struggle but life was good in the New York City area, where his father worked at the World Trade Center.
In November 1991, Ghoshal’s mother returned to India to visit his father. He never came home.
Her mother was managing a kidney issue, Ghoshal said, but a disconnect between doctors and lack of access to health care led to a misdiagnosis. For reasons unknown to him, the family and doctors in India did not contact medical professionals back in the United States. He died a few weeks later in 1992.
Ghoshal remembers the anger at systems designed to protect people like her mother.
There was no reason why he had to pass, he said. He did this because of this lack of access.
Although he has worked in many industries during his professional career, the Ghoshals’ desire to help fill gaps in the healthcare system has always stayed with him. That, along with the family’s connection to the hospitality industry, is driving his new business venture, Healthpitality.
Her mother’s memory is directly related to the why behind Healthpitality, says Ghoshal. Many US citizens, including most hospitality workers, struggle to access affordable health care. For those with traditional health care, long wait times and expensive copays can make it difficult to see a primary care doctor regularly.
Set to launch in January, Healthpitality is marketed as a membership-based alternative to traditional health insurance. It will rely heavily on telehealth services to treat the more than 50 percent of hospitality employees nationwide who do not receive health insurance from the restaurant or hotel that employs them. At Healthpitality, Ghoshal wants to create an environment where members of the hospitality industry are partners in their care and are treated the same VIP treatment they give their guests every night.
Workers in the hospitality industry can become Healthpitality members individually, but Ghoshal sees restaurants turning this membership into an employee benefit. The monthly subscription costs employers $38 to $55 dollars per month per employee, plus a $250 onboarding fee, and includes unlimited telehealth visits.
Restaurants will be billed monthly per employee, meaning restaurants won’t be left with a bill when someone leaves the staff, Ghoshal said. On the other hand, workers are not fired when they change jobs.
Subscriptions for individual employees purchasing their own Healthpitality package are $65 per month. Hospitality workers who want to sign up individually will be asked to provide proof of employment, such as a recent paycheck.
Ghoshal, who moved to Charleston in 2018, describes Healthpitality as a virtual-first health care provider. Her telehealth experience includes working as a consultant for Doxy.me, a telemedicine business that began as a tool for healthcare providers to bring prenatal care to women who would normally have to travel long distances for well-check and weigh-in .
While he understands the benefits of telehealth, Ghoshal also acknowledges that it cannot cover every healthcare need. Not only is it possible to do every type of visit remotely, meaning Healthpitality members still need to schedule appointments for imaging tests, blood tests and other visits that require in-person that interaction.
Personal visits, recommended by doctors and nurse practitioners employed by Healthpitality, will incur an out-of-pocket cost for the restaurant or employee.
Our providers are skilled in using telehealth best practices to serve our members. However, if necessary, they are also skilled in identifying situations where in-person care is important, and will refer members to outside providers accordingly, Ghoshal said.
Telemedicine has been more widely adopted since the pandemic, said Director of Primary Care Telemedicine Dr. Marty Player of the Medical University of South Carolina. It has been especially effective in treating mental health disorders, Player said.
Limitations of Telemedicine include the inability to perform testing and tests that must be performed in person. South Carolina law also prohibits doctors from prescribing certain controlled drugs without establishing care for a patient in person.
Early research before the pandemic suggested that telemedicine provided more access to people who already had access to health care, Player said. Advances in the field suggest that, going forward, telemedicine may increase access for more vulnerable populations, he said.
Access to primary care is still limited in this country in general, Player said. I think having a telehealth option is beneficial.
Healthpitality currently has six employees and plans to have three doctors and six to nine nurse practitioners when it launches in January in South Carolina and Florida. The main focus initially was on acute care. As Healthpitality sees demand grow, the plan is to expand services to cover primary care and preventive medicine, said Ghoshal, whose brother is a certified master chef, a designation given by the American Culinary Federation.
The ultimate goal is to create a comprehensive health and wellness ecosystem where members can manage most of their health needs. They will do this by working with the Healthpitality concierge team, who will be trained to understand the realities of working in the restaurant industry.
Their deep understanding of the unique challenges facing those in hospitality ensures that every interaction is not only helpful, but also empathetic and tailored, Ghoshal said.
Ambitious future goals include the creation of healthpitals, units that will bring health care services directly to members for seasonal needs such as flu shots and physical exams. The overall goal, Ghoshal said, is to make healthcare accessible and convenient for all Healthpitality members.
For more information, visit healthpitality.life.
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