New franchise system offers fully-integrated approach to elderly and disabled health care solutions

It started with a desperate phone call from a distraught daughter at her wit's end. Patricia Maisano was on the receiving end of that call.

The woman on the other end of the phone was searching for assistance in caring for her elderly mother. At the time, Maisano was running a care consulting business in Philadelphia. She was a registered nurse and well-versed in case management. And the phone call had a significant impact on her.

"It made me realize how desperate her need was and the other calls we had gotten drove home the fact that this was a real problem," says Maisano. As a result, she began to form a business plan. The idea was to create a company that could help families manage short- and long-term health crises, while ensuring that their loved ones' wishes and needs were carefully considered. Three years later, in 2000, Masaino launched IKOR.

The unique approach of IKOR has been not to directly provide care for the elderly and disabled, but rather, to provide guidance, oversight, help plan, and advocate for the patient in need. The company can provide myriad of legal, and for patients and their families. Services include selecting providers, recommending health care facilities, managing medications, and even professional guardianship assistance.

The company has done so well over the last seven years that, as of this past July, IKOR has entered the world of franchising.

"Nobody else is doing this on a wide-scale and integrated basis," says Maisano, referring to the full range of health care assistance and services offered by the company. "We've already got three signed contracts with franchisees and are eagerly looking for more partners." The company's early growth will be concentrated in the northeastern part of the U.S. (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia) but Maisano is quick to point out that she's looking at the entire country. She says she'd like to have 100 franchisees by 2010.

Maisano says the franchise is perfect for anyone who has a background in nursing and case management. But she says attorneys, estate planners, accountants, and other strong business people may also have what it takes to make good franchisees. "Although it helps, there's no need for a background," she says. "Our technology strong infrastructure, and oversight abilities can provide that background."

She says franchisees can be home-based during the first year but, as it grows, they will eventually need office space. "If a new franchisee is not a registered nurse, they will need to hire one and will also need one other position called the personal needs coordinator." New franchisees can get into the concept for under $85,000.

"We are looking for individuals who have a true desire to help those who need help," says Maisano. "I believe this is a very personal business and a very personal service. And I think there is a passion that comes from growth through franchisees and their inherent dedication that you don't necessarily see in corporate branching."

And with more than 37 million Americans age 65 and older (and that number expected to grow to 86 million by 2050) there is a market and a need for just this kind of service.

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