CEO Series: Jeremy Freer
Here is a Q&A with Jeremy Freer, CEO, Angel MedFlight, a Scottsdale-based air ambulance company that provides comprehensive worldwide air ambulance services.
What inspired you to start Angel MedFlight?
I grew up on a farm in Ohio and when I moved to Arizona for school, I worked as a flight paramedic that was doing something similar to what we do now at Angel MedFlight. During a break from school, I started thinking, “What am I doing and why am I doing it?” I wanted to do something with my life that I really loved and I loved the job as a flight paramedic, so I decided to start an air medical company, but I wanted to do it better.
Video by Cory Bergquist
How did a college student get the money to start an air ambulance company?
I was 25 years old, I put a business plan together, I sought venture capital, I sought investors and I was getting nowhere. It got to the point where I knew I had to do it myself. I pulled about $1 million in credit cards in just under 24 hours before the credit companies had time to cross-reference and that’s how we started.
You started Angel MedFlight in 2007. How were you able to start and grow a company in the middle of an economic crisis?
Instead of focusing on the financial climate, we’ve always put the patient first and we focus on doing the right thing the first time. As long as you always do that, you’ll be successful.
How are your challenges as CEO of Angel MedFlight different from challenges other CEOs face?
We have to deal with aviation, medical care, insurance regulations, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) laws. We have to know all the state, federal and international laws inside and out and know how they intertwine. We have to have strict checks and balances in place and quality assurance processes to provide the best care possible. Other companies don’t have to deal with balancing as many different elements as we have to balance.
What qualities do you think an effective CEO has to have?
You need to learn how to manage yourself first and it begins with character. Once you learn to manage yourself and lead from the heart, you can then focus on effectively managing the organization.
What do you have to do to the planes to configure them for medical use?
There is a sled system that goes in where the seat rails are and the seats come out of the aircraft. There is a bed in in, an oxygen cylinder, suction units, that sort of thing. It’s all the same equipment that you would find in the emergency room of a hospital.
What have you done to distinguish yourself in the industry?
What we have done in order to create a greater continuity of care that is different from everyone else in the industry is that we have nurse case managers that are on the phones, working with the families and are familiar with what the families are going through and understand the medical components of what is going on with the patient.
How has Angel MedFlight changed your industry?
When I started, if someone needed a medical flight and they couldn’t pay cash, they weren’t going to fly. We came in and thought that this is something an insurance plan should cover. You’re not flying an infant in need of care from Tulsa to Rochester, Minn. for no reason. As a company, we have helped change that paradigm within the industry and more insurance companies have become more understanding about the medical need for our industry’s services.