For the past 40 years, Option Care has been dedicated to providing quality infusion therapy that makes a positive difference in each patient’s life. Prior to this, patients requiring nutrition support could only receive their infusions at a hospital. When two pharmacists in Chico, California heard about a 19-year-old man enduring 10 hours of nutrition therapy daily, they proposed delivering his treatment in the home, enabling him to lead a more normal life.
As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, we sat down with Michael Prime, one of Option Care’s founding pharmacists to discuss our history and how serving a single car accident patient, along with his partner, Mitchell Hoggard, launched one of the nation’s leading infusion companies.
OC: Tell me, in your own words, how you discovered the need for home infusion.
MP: There was a young man involved in an automobile accident and through the course of multiple surgeries, he lost most of his bowel, leaving him unable to absorb food orally. My partner was a pharmacist at a hospital in Red Bluff, just north of Chico. This young man was receiving TPN solution there; he required four liters a day, every day — it was a 10-hour infusion. This was just one of those things that (Hoggard) came to me saying that there was this man, sitting in our hospital, getting infusions daily and I think we can provide this in the home.
I didn’t know much about it at the time but thought to myself, why couldn’t we? I was ready to take on the challenge. Shortly afterwards, we spoke with the prescribing physician, getting him to agree that we could provide therapy to the patient once we had the proper license. So we began that long process — (Hoggard) stayed working at the hospital and I happened to own a retail store in downtown Chico — we contacted the insurance agency, found a space for a clean room with a hood to prepare the solution and began taking the work out of the hands of the hospital.
Once that was set up, the patient was released from the hospital and we began delivering solution to his home. Although he was already trained on how to self-infuse, we realized the importance of hiring registered nurses to help support the influx of patients that were being referred to us following this young man’s successful transition to home infusion.
OC: When you and Mr. Hoggard launched the company 40 years ago, did you have any idea that it would become what it is today?
MP: Well, it really was just us doing it; there was no marketing involved. Our infusion treatment in the home started to spread by word of mouth. In fact, the first physician referred another patient of his to our care as well. Eventually, other doctor’s in town began sending us IV antibiotic patients and I had to sell my half of the retail store so I could focus on Option Care full-time.
My partner was the visionary for Option Care. He was the type of person that envisioned what things should look like in the future, whereas I was the one responsible for taking care of the patients. So while I truly never envisioned it growing into what it is today, I believe he operated under the assumption that we could eventually service patients across the country.
OC: It seems like that happened rather quickly because the need for this type of service was so large. When did you finally realize you needed to begin expanding the number of employees at Option Care?
MP: At the beginning, I was not only mixing the therapies in our clean room, but I was traveling to each patient’s home to teach them how to infuse and use their equipment. We started by hiring two nurses who helped support patient care outside of what I could do myself. I was spending about half my time on the road to patient’s homes and delivering their therapy. Often times, staying the night with patients because we were training them or their caregivers on how to infuse the drug, use the pump or change a dressing, which they were nervous to be doing on their own in the beginning, was normal for us.
I loved being able to truly care for our patients. I was able to provide comfort in their ability to safely administer the drug and training on how to keep themselves or their loved one safe. I never wanted to see that change.
Of course, as you continue to grow, some things do need to change. We started being approached by other pharmacists in northern California who had heard about us through word of mouth or listened to us speak at pharmacy conventions. We developed a licensing agreement with them to begin doing business with us. We’d prepare the solution, assist with billing and licensing as well as train them on how to care for the patients like we do. It was at this time that our attorney advised us to begin franchising in order to protect ourselves. This began our nationwide expansion.
OC: Once you began franchising and you took on a more corporate role, how were you able to continue to focus on the quality of patient care?
MP: I became the Corporate Franchise Relations-guy, flying around the country to visit each pharmacy and ensuring they were doing things our way. Through those travels, I was able to serve as a founding member of the National Home Infusion Association (NHIA), helping to set the standards for the infusion industry. I eventually served as the president of the organization giving me the ability to update and progress industry standards into the future.
It took me quite a while to get used to serving in a corporate role, to be honest. I feel like I’m a small guy from Chico, a pharmacist and then all of a sudden I was serving in this corporate, franchise public relations role, which was a big shift for me.
OC: Can you tell me how Option Care got its name?
MP: When we started in 1979, we were operating as CliniCare until we began expanding and tried to license our name. That’s when we discovered the name had already been registered by another organization and we couldn’t use it. One of our marketing people came up with the idea of Outpatient Parental Therapy Intravenous On-going Nutrition with Care on the end – O.P.T.I.O.N. Care — as a way to explain exactly what we were as a company.
We eventually changed the name to lose the acronym and just became Option Care in the early 1990’s. With these changes, our logo transformed throughout the years as well.
OC: Since we started with nutrition therapy, I think it’s an interesting fact that we recently became a Gold sponsor of the Oley Foundation. Did you have any involvement with them?
MP: Oh wow, I remember when Oley first started! We had some patients who were actively involved with Oley in the past. I’m glad to hear that Option Care is still staying with its roots after all these years. We were never involved with them during my time at the company so I’m really glad to hear of your commitment to the Oley Foundation and their mission.
Click here to learn more about our nutrition support services and our partnership with the Oley Foundation.