During his 12 years in a hospital emergency room, first as a nurse and last as director of emergency and urgent care services, Nathan Baar, RN learned a lot about patient care and hospital administration. His experience led him to consider better ways for delivering health care and how that delivery could benefit both nurses and patients. In 2019, Baar began to develop his ideas for HealthBar, a concierge-style health care practice mainly staffed by contracted registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and nurse practitioners.
“I had focused on taking care of people, building my career and progressively taking next steps in leadership,” says Baar, HealthBar’s founder and CEO. “I wanted to create a model with nurses as primary care providers, completing clinical services, concierge-style, at the point of service.”
HealthBar launched in May 2020 amid a raging pandemic. Understandably, services relating to COVID-19 prevention became a flashpoint for the new venture. In addition to evaluating social distancing during operations and supplying personal protective equipment, HealthBar provided registered nurses and nurse practitioners on-site to do COVID-19 assessments and temperature screenings for team members coming to work. HealthBar also offers drive-thru COVID-19 testing at 412 Fuller Ave. NE in Grand Rapids.
“COVID was honestly a good test for this delivery model that we’re trying to do,” Baar says. “I wanted to start fixing these issues of access and cost by changing the trajectory of people’s health journeys. I wanted to do it in a way that was very cost effective, as well.”
HealthBar clients across the state include manufacturers, school districts, smaller tech firms and nursing homes. While its core focus is the business setting, HealthBar offers services to individuals, as well. Baar’s colleague, Garry VonMyhr, enlisted HealthBar early-on in the pandemic to help his business, Tech Defenders, continue operating safely.
"When COVID first came to the U.S. in the spring of 2020, I started to call Nate weekly for advice on how to help keep our staff safe. After a few weeks, I realized that I was going to have a continuous need for his professional health care advice,” VonMyhr says. “I knew many other business owners had to be in the same position so I reached out to my network of local business owners to spread the word on what Nate was doing and ended up partnering with him as I saw the real potential — that we could change the health care system in a big way."
During his years as a hospital nurse, Baar worked three, 12-hour shifts each week, leaving him four days with little to do. He filled some of that time joining the gig economy as a handyman. With the nursing workforce as huge as it is, he knew many other hospital nurses were probably looking for ways to earn more money outside of their jobs. He was right. Since opening in May 2020, 300 nurses have joined HealthBar as contractors. Eleven full-time staff, including medical director, Dr. Chris Collar, DO, oversee day-to-day operations.
“One of the contract nurses has worked enough for us that she used the money she made on the side for a down payment on a house,” Baar says. “Others now have the opportunity to pay down their student loans and have fun doing it.”
However, Baar’s primary mission is to create a cost-effective health care option for businesses and individuals that offers more highly personalized care. While HealthBar does not work with health insurance payers, Baar says that its concierge services can enhance business recruitment and retention.
“It’s a reasonable cost and a significant employee benefit,” Baar concludes. “Whether they have diabetes, hypertension, or other health concerns, employees have an individual they can talk with, check in with them once a week, and help them navigate the health care system when needed. It’s like having a personal coach for your health.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker Development News Editor
Photos courtesy HealthBar