As an entrepreneur, decorated officer, and veteran of the United States Army Reserves, Dr. Darwin Hale’s mission goes far beyond the battlefield. His company, Advocate Health Advisors, is a national field marketing organization (FMO) in the Medicare market. The company’s mission is to help older Americans navigate the complex healthcare landscape and make informed decisions about Medicare coverage.
“When my mother turned 65, she struggled to understand both Medicare and the important decisions surrounding the enrollment process. Understandably, she turned to me for help and started asking a lot of questions about this important health coverage milestone,” said Dr. Hale.
At the time, Dr. Hale was the healthcare director for AT&T where he wrote a business strategy surrounding technology’s ability to support Fortune 500 healthcare customers. Yet even he had trouble making sense of Medicare and the specific rules that govern it.
“I called an old military friend, who is an insurance professional, and he and my mom sat down and figured it all out together. That experience made me realize that I could use my healthcare background, abilities, and resources to help others avoid the same confusion and stress. I knew then that I had to start Advocate Health Advisors because I understood that the problem was much bigger than my own situation,” added Dr. Hale.
Dr. Hale’s business career began with McCaw Cellular in Tampa, Florida as a senior account representative directly after he graduated from college. This was followed by top-level executive leadership with AT&T and IBM for 15 years, where he honed his expertise in healthcare services, information technology, telecommunications, and personnel management, and more importantly, how all these specialties fit together in the workplace and in healthcare.
From the beginning of his career, Dr. Hale was eager to start his enterprise. In 1995, while leading teams for AT&T, he established Affordable Cellular Rentals, a business that provided temporary cellphones to tourists and corporate visitors.
Through it all, Dr. Hale remained committed to his community and his country. Dr. Hale is a veteran and retired Colonel in the United States Army Reserves. His 30-year military career included seven active-duty deployments spanning from Korea to Afghanistan. He completed seven years within the United States Special Operations Command Antiterrorism Division and is a recipient of 18 military awards, including the Bronze Star Medal and Legion of Merit.
When he launched Advocate Health Advisors in 2005 in Venice, Florida, Dr. Hale wanted to continue serving the community, including residents, agents, veterans, and employers. Over the past nearly two decades, the company has grown from a small-town Florida storefront to being licensed in all 50 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. And Dr. Hale’s commitment to his community and his country remains the epicenter of the company’s ethos. Today, Advocate Health Advisor’s family of vetted agents take a personalized, one-on-one approach to ensure each community member who comes to them for help makes the best and most informed decisions about their healthcare.
With respect to business, Dr. Hale encourages leaders to think beyond dollar signs to inspire and innovate, while doing good for their customers and community.
“If leaders are brought up to only think about return on invested capital, and financial gains are the only driving force, there isn’t a good measure for the value that can be created,” said Dr. Hale. “I’ve learned to be successful in business long term, you must think about social interaction and the greater good. When thinking about the long-term impact of your company on the community, and not just your bottom line, you instantly begin to think in ways that will spark your passions as a leader. In turn, you spark your employees’ desire to be part of something bigger. That wasn’t in any manual I read, but I’ve found that as simple as the idea is, it makes for an innovative business model. Things have changed in our business ecosystem and being customer-driven is about more than creating supply and demand, it’s about being present and truly caring for the communities you serve,” he added.
In line with educating the community on healthcare, Dr. Hale is currently finishing up his second book. Due out early next year, the book highlights Medicare Advantage quality, what individuals can be doing now to prepare for retirement and the eventual switch to Medicare, and what they should expect from a local broker to help navigate the Medicare Advantage system.
“This is key because local brokers are trusted resources charged with protecting the best interests of their clients, who are members of their immediate communities. Surprisingly, very little is known about them as agents of change and support, but they have a big impact on patients’ overall experience, and they have the power to turn bad experiences into good ones,” said Dr. Hale.
His previous book, “Need To Know,” is the ultimate guide to help individuals learn how to navigate the U.S. healthcare system, which Hale’s own story pinpoints as confusing at best.
Dr. Hale believes that strong leaders must take inspiration from wherever it can be found. Hale himself is an academic at heart, and during his free time, enjoys reading, listening to podcasts, and watching interviews to study leaders and what makes them tick.
“Learning about other great leaders’ personal insights and lived experiences helps me become a better leader myself. I can apply those learnings to healthcare. Even though it is different from any other industry, healthcare needs a rational economic model underpinning everything. I would argue it’s even more important because quality outcomes are more important when human lives are impacted, added Dr. Hale”
When it comes to giving advice, Dr. Hale encourages both leaders, and everyone else, to take an active role in their personal well-being, and perhaps more importantly, to empower others to do the same.
“I call this ‘enlightened health interests,’ because health helps everyone. If I’m strong and healthy it not only impacts me but my neighborhood, my community, and even the state that manages important programs like Medicaid. Ultimately, the healthier I am, the stronger the nation.”
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