Newswise — Baltimore, MD – A haircut, a shave and a screening for COVID-19. A new partnership between LifeBridge Health and Live Chair Health will expand the program’s innovative health screening initiative to more Baltimore-area barbers while also providing COVID-19 support in the form of PPE (personal protective equipment), screening tools, education and resources for barbershop clients who think they may have had been exposed to the Coronavirus.
The partnership builds on Live Chair Health’s successful program working with local barbers to screen patrons for high blood pressure, BMI (body mass index) and other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Program founders recognized that the trust, friendship and camaraderie of the barbershop could be a vehicle for conversations around health concerns, which many men are reluctant to discuss.
“Live Chair Health understands the special bond men have with their barbers and the potential to build on that bond to help men improve their health. At LifeBridge Health, we are thrilled to work with Live Chair Health on a pilot project to expand its reach initially to 20+ barbershops in our area, with the goal to connect with up to 1,000 additional clients,” says Daniel Durand, M.D., chief innovation officer for LifeBridge Health.
He continues, “During this pandemic, we are also pleased to be able to provide PPE to these barbershops as well as COVID screening tools, education and support, including connections to help barbershop patrons access testing more easily.”
Under the program, clients entering the barbershops will use Live Chair Health kiosks to answer questions about travel and COVID symptoms. Those who may have an increased risk for COVID can be connected to LifeBridge Health resources to receive support and information about testing. Clients can access these resources either through an app or the Internet.
“We are excited to partner with LifeBridge Health to vastly expand Live Chair Health’s reach in the Baltimore area. We know that men in minority communities may be particularly reluctant to go to the doctor. At the same time, these men have increased risks for serious health conditions due to a variety of economic and environmental factors, the same factors that may also put them at increased risk for COVID-19,” explains Andrew Suggs, CEO and co-founder of Live Chair.
He adds, “Through the special social connections of the barbershops, we hope to be a bridge for health systems such as LifeBridge Health to reach, engage, access and influence men so we can help them control or prevent chronic conditions and live their healthiest lives.”
The Live Chair Health initiative grew out of connections first cultivated through a barbershop appointment scheduling app. This Live Chair app is now used by thousands of barbershop patrons in nearly 30 states. Understanding the special relationships between barbers and their clients, the team had the idea to see how barbers could be trained to be health advocates for their clients which includes basic health screenings.
Prior to the LifeBridge Health partnership, three Baltimore-area barbershops were part of the Live Chair Health initiative. Now, the partners will seek to expand the health training and resources to more than 20 shops.
The LifeBridge Health pilot project will start with barbershops using the Live Chair app in northwest Baltimore and in Baltimore County, in areas surrounding Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and Northwest Hospital in Randallstown.
Phase 1 of the project will focus on the COVID resources; Phase 2 will include the launch of a Live Chair Health chronic disease screening program including support and resources from LifeBridge Health, to engage clients to participate further in the mission to reach men who may otherwise not get medical treatment for health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.
The partners will be working together throughout the pilot to evaluate the effectiveness of the expanded program. Live Chair Health seeks to understand how the program can be effectively scaled to a larger number of barbershops; while LifeBridge Health looks to learn what additional programs or services may be needed to support people in the barbershop communities. The partners will also look to see if there may be other ideas to promote healthier lifestyles among the barbers and their customers.
“In partnering with an innovative health system like LifeBridge Health, we are eager to develop best practices and models to measure the impact and health outcomes for the barbershop clients,” says Suggs.
This type of innovative program is at the core of Live Chair. Live Chair first pivoted the business model and relocated to Maryland participating in the FounderTrac Accelerator and later completing the American Heart Association’s EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator.
Live Chair also received investments from MCVC Partners, JumpStart Foundry, and a syndicate of mission-aligned investors like Baltimore native Frank Otenasek. “Live Chair Health is helping to remedy minority health disparities, which have been exacerbated by the recent threat of COVID and the lingering scourge of racial inequality. And, Live Chair Health is doing that in a way that benefits all stakeholders — barbers, clients, healthcare providers, healthcare systems and health plans,” says Otenasek.
“The innovative spirit of the Live Chair Health initiative complements LifeBridge Health’s own innovative approach to finding ways to improve health and help people. This partnership is a wonderful example of LifeBridge Health’s own purpose statement – ‘Caring for Our Communities Together,’” concludes Dr. Durand.
Founded in 2016 as an appointment booking service for local barbershops, Live Chair has transformed into a nation-wide health service platform with over 15,000 users. Live Chair supports front-line primary care providers in engaging, assessing and treating at-risk minority patients from the comfort of the barber chair, with the goal to improve adherence to care protocols and to diagnose hypertension and other chronic diseases. To learn more about our health care and insurance partners or find a participating barbershop, visit livechair.co.
LifeBridge Health is one of the largest, most comprehensive providers of health services in Maryland. LifeBridge Health includes Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, Northwest Hospital, Carroll Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, Grace Medical Center and related subsidiaries and affiliates. For more information, visit www.lifebridgehealth.org