COVID-19 has radically disrupted the U.S. healthcare industry, which in turn has disrupted other business industries and entire communities. Healthcare workers are experiencing burnout at alarming rates. In a 2020 EClinicalMedicine survey, almost 50 percent of healthcare workers reported they were burned out from the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2021 special report from Morning Consult found that, since February 2020, 18 percent of healthcare workers have left their roles, 12 percent were laid off, and 31 percent have contemplated leaving their jobs.
Burnout and turnover issues are worsening U.S. healthcare provider shortages and hospital occupancy issues that existed even before the pandemic. Patients often wait long hours in the emergency room before seeing a physician, and many leave before they’re seen at all. If you’re in the healthcare industry, these could be your patients. If you’re in any other industry, these could be your employees. Either way, this issue affects us all.
The healthcare industry needs new, flexible solutions to ensure everyone has the access to care they need. In Central New York, Drakos Clinical Laboratories strives to serve patients wherever they are. Drakos provides mobile, at-work and at-home medical testing, concierge medical services, and medical testing logistics for large-scale events and productions. The company is now pursuing new partnership opportunities to help better reach patients.
“At Drakos, we believe in healthcare without walls,” says Drakos Founder and CEO Heather Drake Bianchi. “If we can go into a patient’s home, workplace, or another safe location to check their vitals and do their laboratory work, it lessens the pressure on hospitals, urgent cares, and physicians. It can also be safer for many patients, especially people who are immunocompromised or have young children or older adults at home.”
Drakos’s story begins in 2020 when its CineMedics division was founded. CineMedics was created to address the unprecedented medical testing needs on film sets during the pandemic.
“When the pandemic began, there was a significant need to keep entertainment productions running safely. People’s livelihoods depended on it,” says Drake Bianchi. “This was particularly important being from Central New York where we have a relatively new, but rapidly growing film industry. We knew that our skills as first responders were a natural fit for protecting people in this moment and ensuring they could do their jobs without worrying about COVID.”
The company’s roots are in community paramedicine. Many of the staff members, including Drake Bianchi, are first responders who are experts at providing critical medical services in any environment. A scientist as well as entrepreneur, Drake Bianchi earned her Master of Science in human anatomy and physiology from Northeast College of Health Sciences and her bachelor’s in biomedical sciences from RIT. Before founding CineMedics and Drakos, she spent 16 years working in critical care medicine, both in the U.S. and internationally. She has served as a paramedic for National Geographic, Remote Medical International, and the Ocean Classroom Foundation.
In the pivotal first months of the pandemic, the Drakos/CineMedics team helped developed new protocols that became the standard throughout the film industry. They provided medical services to major productions, including the cast and crew of the Oscar-nominated “Don’t Look Up.” They were also hand-picked by the CNN conference “LIFE ITSELF” to conduct large-scale event testing for a VIP crowd. At “LIFE ITSELF,” they provided the COVID-19 testing for attendees such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, several past U.S. Presidents, astronaut Mark Kelly, actress Goldie Hawn, and more.
Over the past two years, Drakos/CineMedics has grown from seven people to a team of 50, with locations throughout the U.S. and in the UK. They continue to be sought out by major production companies as the #1 preferred company for these services.
Most recently, CineMedics provided care for the cast and crew of the new Netflix film “The Union.” Described as a “blue-collar James Bond,” the action thriller stars Mark Wahlberg, Halle Berry, and J.K. Simmons.
As a result of CineMedics’ work on the film, Wahlberg asked Drakos/CineMedics to provide concierge medical care for him and his friends and family on his current project, an Apple Original film titled “The Family Plan.”
There’s still more Drake Bianchi and the Drakos team want to do. Drake Bianchi previously assisted in search and rescue efforts for Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, and Sandy. Having seen firsthand the barriers that underserved populations face when trying to access healthcare, she has also committed the next phase of her business to using her mobile technology to bridge that gap for veterans, rural populations, low-income individuals, the sex worker industry, and the LGBTQ+ community right here in Central New York.
“Sometimes I can’t believe this is my life. It’s an incredible honor to be able to deliver quality care to so many people,” says Drake Bianchi. “I love being able to meet people where they are and ensuring they have what they need to be healthy.”
Increasing access to healthcare services became even more important to Drakos when a close colleague was diagnosed with cancer during a recent production. Seeing their friend fight cancer accelerated the Drakos/CineMedics team’s desire to serve more people.
“To survive cancer, you have to survive chemo, which means staying out of the hospital and staying hydrated,” says Drake Bianchi. “We want to reduce their exposure in the hospitals. Our friend and colleague getting their cancer diagnosis jumpstarted our work to provide these services and do them well.”
Drakos believes that this kind of care is the wave of the future, with both immediate and long-term implications. While the immediate need for everyone in our community is apparent, by 2040, more than 20 percent of the U.S. population will be 65 years or older—a demographic change for which the U.S. healthcare and caregiving systems are currently unprepared, especially in light of the damage caused by the pandemic. Additionally, many older people want to age in place, creating a need for services to come to them.
Drakos aims to ensure everyone has the care they need, where they want it, now and in the future.
Looking ahead, Drake Bianchi sees boundless ways to innovate Drakos and how healthcare is provided—which could have significant positive impacts on other entities within the healthcare industry, as well as the health and productivity of our community overall.
“We have the tools to make healthcare more accessible, more inclusive, and more tailored to patients’ individual needs,” says Drake Bianchi. “We’re ready to connect with new partners who are also excited to help shape the future of healthcare.”
For more information on Drakos Clinical Laboratories and CineMedics please visit their respective websites.