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Immigrant Entrepreneur Hall of Fame: Kiran Patel

Country of origin: Zambia
Year came to U.S.: 1976
Education: Undergraduate at University of Cambridge and University of London; MD, Gujarat University, India; and Fellowship in Cardiology, Columbia University, New York

Business: WellCare Health Plans, Inc. (1992)

Headquarters: Tampa, FL

2015 revenue: $13.9 billion

U.S. employment: 7,100

Ranked 202 in the 2016 Fortune 500

 

  • Patel’s mission was to make healthcare efficient, affordable and accessible.
  • He grew WellCare Health Plans, Inc. from a small, struggling HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) to America’s fifth-largest.

 

A cardiologist born in Africa of Indian parents is the man responsible for almost single-handedly transforming the face of healthcare in Florida. Even after building up WellCare Health Plans, Inc. from a fledgling HMO to America’s fifth largest, Kiran C. Patel continues to serve the medical community by seeking to revolutionize patient care.

Patel was born in Zambia in 1950. Educated under the British system, he attended medical school in India before becoming a Fellow at Columbia University, New York.

In 1980, Patel moved to Florida where he grew a reputation as a distinguished cardiologist. But, being dissatisfied with simply excelling at his job, his mission became one of making healthcare efficient, affordable and accessible.

Patel developed a physician practice management company in Tampa Bay. He partnered with several point-of-service locations to form a multi-specialty network that helps more than 90,000 patients access medical services conveniently every year.

Such success prompted his 1992 appointment as chairman of Tampa-based WellCare HMO, which he later purchased. He was charged with reinventing the small, struggling HMO, and that he did.

Within a few years, WellCare became the fifth largest HMO in the country, had expanded up the Eastern seaboard and boasted more than $1 billion in revenue.

Patel again proved his entrepreneurial spirit by founding Visionary Medical Systems to produce time-saving software that reduces paperwork and allows physicians to spend more time with their patients. In his own words, “There is so much waste in health care and so much care that is not proper because there’s no good integration. I want to build a software product that will bring efficiencies to health care.” Visionary Medical was acquired by CompuGroup Medical AG in 2010.

Patel’s service extends beyond the medical community. Since WellCare, he founded the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding, a not-for-profit organization that develops and funds programs in health, education, and arts and culture.

Updated September 2016

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