Q&A with La Jolla’s Koi Wellbeing founder and CEO Jeffrey Sternberg



• You are a community of healthcare providers. How many people on staff, how many in the “community?” How does the space-sharing work?

We have one a board-certified medical doctor (who specializes in physical and regenerative medicine), two naturopathic doctors, a nurse practitioner, dietetic counselor, four nurses and a medical assistant at our current office and continue to add providers as we grow.

KOI Wellbeing is a practice space that allows each medical professional to provide highly individualized concierge-level care and grow their practice without the barriers to advanced care and personal service associated with insurance companies and large healthcare systems.

The doctors rent space and are able to spend more time with their patients because KOI Wellbeing manages their calendar, record-keeping and provides everything they need to deliver the most advanced care, thus freeing them to focus on their clients. Because there’s no insurance company between them, our doctors earn more and patients pay less than the average cost of services in a hospital/insurance based system.

• How did KOI come to be and what are the future plans?

KOI is the result of my experience working in the healthcare field — most recently as the CEO of Discovery Health Services since 2002 — and also as a sufferer of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis since age 22, and the multiple hospitalizations and side effects of the myriad prescription drugs that so limited my quality of life.

As a healthcare executive serving every major insurer, hospital systems and in clinical research, I saw how good doctors and healthcare providers were restricted at every turn by endemic payor systems in what they were able to do for the benefit of the patient. When we owned a home healthcare agency for example, our nurses and doctors would determine a patient’s needs post hospitalization, request approval from the insurer, and nearly always receive authorization for maybe half of what was necessary.

As a patient, I was downstream of these same policy and systemic failures. The care I received was not based on anything investigative, but instead founded on what drugs the insurer would authorize and never inclusive of thinking beyond the prescription pad.

In 2015, I became severely ill, having developed symptoms and issues beyond what was typical to my irritable bowel syndrome (IBD). After months of seeing doctors at two hospitals and seeing nothing but more decline, I finally went to see a naturopathic doctor (ND). I knew nothing about the field and thought an ND was the same thing as a homeopath, not realizing they attend four years of medical school.

The experience was life changing. Ultimately, I saw Brooke Leverone, who is now at KOI, and was told I had symptoms that were easily treatable through diet and non-drug supplementation. I have not been on any prescribed medication for IBD since, and am far and away the healthiest I’ve ever been.

From that experience, and my frustration as an executive working in healthcare, the concept of KOI was borne: a place where doctors, wishing to provide personalized healthcare without limits, can spend time with patients seeking care that is grounded in the most advanced diagnostics available and naturalized remedies based on the root cause of their symptoms.

What KOI Wellbeing represents is the future of healthcare delivery and our plans are to open several more locations with the goal of having a KOI Wellbeing in every community.

• You’ve been in business now for 2 years in Bird Rock. How has your company changed? What has surprised you in those 2 years?

We’ve more than doubled in size and now have a strategic plan for expansion, encouraged by our rapid growth and outstanding patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Most of our clientele first visited KOI for nutrient injections or IV therapy and then went on to meet for an hour with one of the naturopathic doctors to address something particular like digestive issues, Hashimotos, weight gain or hormonal imbalance. What we often heard though were complaints about chronic physical pain, whether arthritic or joint pain from injuries, so we added Dr. Patricia Lutfy, a diplomate in physical medicine and rehabilitation. She provides advanced therapies such as ultrasound-guided amniotic fluid and cord-blood injections.

We also expanded our retail to offer only the highest grade supplements available, so people don’t have to go somewhere that carries an array of supplements inclusive of average and poor-quality supplements, and guess at which one to buy. We complemented the supplements with natural sunscreens and other practical products that meet our stringent standards.

What’s been most surprising is how quickly people adapted to our cash pay policy. Only lab work is covered by insurance at KOI and I thought we would have to do more to educate people on the value of getting what you pay for at KOI. Instead, we found that most people understand that they are not getting results from their insurance policies and that their health is worth the $250 they pay for an hour with a doctor.

• What are your most popular therapies?

The most popular service is a one-hour assessment and consultation with the doctor. The most popular therapies are our Forever Young IV, our Mom Shot nutrient injection, and the PRP facial rejuvenation and amniotic fluid hair restoration treatments.

• What sets you apart from other wellness centers?

The customer experience and service array are differentiators. When developing KOI Wellbeing, I wanted to reimagine how healthcare could be delivered in our country. Having been a healthcare service provider for 15 years, and also a patient, I understood both that there was a big gap between what patients would want and what providers were doing regarding the customer service experience.

It occurred to me that only the airline industry treated their clients as badly as the average healthcare provider. The idea that we are spending hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars but treated as chattel by our insurer, at the check-in counter, and sometimes by the practitioner, is unacceptable. Instead, we should be treated as we would if we were to spend that same amount of money at Nordstrom.

At KOI we follow this principle. We refer to our “patients” as clients and our mission is to create a complete experience that begins when you walk in the door and extends to your interaction with the nurses and practitioners. Add to that our comprehensive menu of services, the integration of NDs and MDs, that is the KOI Wellbeing difference.

• Do you set up partnerships with like-minded businesses?

We partner with companies like Lululemon to offer lectures and host events where the doctors and specialists that office at KOI Wellbeing present on topics such as bioidentical hormone balancing, HCG diets, athletic injuries and regenerative medicine, diet and detoxification and how functional lab and genetic testing can uncover the root cause of illness. We often pair the events with a run or workout class and nutrient injections formulated for the occasion or event. We don’t limit ourselves to any one kind of business and, in fact, are now working with corporations to bring our lectures to their employee populations and also provide B-12 shots and IVs in their offices.

• What is the newest treatment you offer?

The HCG Diet program administered by Dr. Leverone and Dr. Daily, and also the various cord blood products Dr. Lutfy is using for everything from hair regrowth to back pain. I recently had a cord blood injection in my chronically bad knee and can’t stop talking about it. In just a week, I’ve gone from icing it after surfing to feeling like I can get back to doing whatever I wish without a worry.

— Koi Wellbeing is at 5632 La Jolla Blvd., La Jolla. (858) 257-2808.