March 31, 2022

We are expanding beyond covid-19 testing

Three years ago, business partners and brothers-in-law Dr. Azmat Husain and Fahad Hashmi decided to start a business that would combine Husain’s medical experience with Hashmi’s technology and finance background.

The Covid-19 outbreak forced their company, Delaware County-based Personic Health Care, to pivot from digital health to Covid testing. The pandemic also sparked their recent decision to expand into a new health care service area: behavioral health.

“What we really like to do is identify voids and fill them,” said Husain, who previously served as CEO of the physicians practice at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children. “That’s our business model.”

Delaware and Chester counties, their target area, have seen Crozer Health cut some of its behavioral health and other services in Delaware County and Tower Health close Brandywine Hospital in Coatesville, which had a large inpatient behavioral health unit.

“There is a significant shortage of behavioral health care services in this area, particularly for people with depression and anxiety,” Husain said. “[The counties] are in a very precarious position for health care services.”

Its first such treatment center will be in Springfield, where the company plans to convert its urgent care center to the new use.

Hashmi, who was born in Pakistan and came to the United States to attend college, and Husain, who was born in the United States and has parents who emigrated from India, married sisters. They have only known each for a few years.

“We clicked very quickly,” said Hashmi, CEO of Personic. “There have been so many times we’ve both picked up the phone at the same time to call the other to talk about the same idea.”

Personic initially planned to market a portable and remote patient monitoring device they developed to track vital signs like blood pressure, heart rate and blood glucose levels.

Hashmi said the company, which has a manufacturing partner in China, was discussing its medical device with dozens of health systems when the pandemic began and put those talks on hold.

Covid-19 created another business opportunity when Hashmi and Husain observed the angst people were experiencing trying to get tested for virus and obtain their results in a timely manner.

Personic entered the Covid-19 testing business in late 2020 to fill a void. The pivot also provided the company with a potential audience, those testing positive for Covid, for its remote patient monitor. Among the vital signs it can track is oxygen saturation level, an important measure for an infection that impairs lung functioning.

Personic opened an urgent care center in Springfield as a site where people could be tested.

“We thought we could get to 50 patients a day in a month,” said Husain, chief medical officer of Personic. “We hit that the second day and in three weeks we were doing 150.”

Needing more room, the company established a testing site at the Springfield Mall where the volume grew to 1,000 Covid screenings a day. After the omicron variant emerged, Personic teamed up with Delaware County to open a second testing site at the Delaware County Emergency Training Center in Sharon Hill. The company has also conducted testing at a church in Springfield and other community sites in the region.

“The desperation for testing is unlike anything I’ve ever seen in health care,” Husain said.

Personic expanded its Covid testing business to more than two dozen office locations — three of which are urgent care centers — in six states: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida.

Hashmi said to accelerate how quickly they could provide test results to people, the company decided to open a PCR testing laboratory in Northern Virginia in July 2021 to serve all its testing sites.

At the crest of the omicron outbreak, Personic’s staff grew to a peak of 300 employees. Its core permanent staff numbers about 180 — 50 care providers, with the remainder in back office and technical support roles.

The company has handled 300,000 Covid screenings since its inception, including about 130,000 in southeastern Pennsylvania.

“We haven’t charged any patient, whether they have health insurance or are uninsured,” Husain said.

The next move for Personic, which generated revenue of $20 million last year, is the expansion into behavioral health.

Husain said Personic, which will continue to provide Covid testing, just hired a psychiatrist to join its team. The company is planning to open anxiety and depression treatment centers that will offer new treatment modalities for the conditions.

“Mental health has touched nearly every family in one way or another,” Husain said. “Families struggle with it.”

Personic plans to open five anxiety and depression treatment centers in the region over the next year. The company is working with Neuronetics (NASDAQ: STIM) to bring the Malvern company’s NeuroStar Advanced Therapy System to Personic’s treatment centers. Neurostar is a non-invasive and office-based treatment for depression that uses transcranial magnetic stimulation to target specific areas of the brain associated with mood.

Personic’s centers will also offer telepsychiatry evaluation services by a licensed provider, as well as Spravato, a new prescription medicine given by a nasal spray that is used to treat the symptoms of treatment-resistant depression and major depressive disorder.

Credit goes to John George.

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