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Mental health docs tap executive market: Carmel's Indiana Health Group opens high-end suite

January 14, 2008

Greg Sipes likens the new executiveservices suite he and his partners opened three months ago to a BMW.

Its quality is solid, to be sure, but what makes people want to drive it is its look and feel.

It's an apt comparison for the 2,500-square-foot wing of the new offices of Sipes' behavioral health practice, Indiana Health Group. A set of boardroom-like double doors leads to a waiting room with shiny hardwood floors, dark wood paneling, plush rugs, overstuffed chairs and a self-serve coffee bar. This is not your average waiting room.

And it's not designed to appeal to your average client. Sipes, a psychologist, and Chris Bojrab, a psychiatrist, hope to attract more business executives and high-profile locals looking for mental therapy.

Already, about 20 percent of their patients are corporate managers, media personalities and pro athletes. But they'd like that percentage to be higher.

"We live in an age of abundance. There's a lot of therapists and a lot of doctors," Sipes said. "What matters as a point of distinction? Design."

Indiana Health Group moved into its new offices near St. Vincent Carmel Hospital in August. Sipes and Bojrab are still finishing off decorating details in their wing, which is separate from the rest of the offices.

The new space is just a fancier way to make people comfortable-the same idea as the magazines and phone in the waiting room of an oil-change joint. For high-profile patients, being comfortable often entails an extra measure of privacy.

Sipes and Bojrab said many people have a stigma about getting mental therapy. Like Robert De Niro's mob-boss character in the movie "Analyze This," they'd rather no one even knew about it.

Karl Ahlrichs, a local human resources consultant, sought counseling from Sipes a few years ago when he went through a divorce. At that time, Indiana Health Group had its office at Keystone at the Crossing and had one waiting room for all patients.

"While I was waiting in his waiting room in my business suit and wing tips, and the waiting room was filled with a cross-section of America, I have to admit I felt a little out of place," Ahlrichs said.

That feeling diminished over time, he said. But Sipes and Bojrab received similar comments frequently enough to sense a need. In the past, if patients were concerned about privacy, they would schedule them as the first or last appointment of the day or bring them in through a back entrance.

Now, Sipes and Bojrab have taken their privacy efforts a step further, by no longer taking insurance payments. They did so because some patients were skittish about having any record-even one supposed to be kept private-that they had sought psychotherapy.

Sipes and Bojrab charge $200 an hour, and are looking to raise those rates. Sipes also said, "We're tired of dealing with the insurance companies." The nearly 25 other clinicians at Indiana Health Group still accept payments through insurance.

Sipes and Bojrab see their focus on executives as something that could be an add-on service to executive coaching. They don't plan to get into executive coaching, but think some clients might have challenges that go beyond a coach's expertise.

"We were seeing folks, increasingly, that were not just wanting some symptomatic release, but asking, 'How do I optimize my level of function?'" Bojrab said. "[We are] almost a personal trainer for your brain, if you will."

In seven years of executive coaching, Bud Roth, of Carmel, has referred just three clients to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

"It's rare," said Roth, who used to be vice president of human resources at Conseco Inc. But from a marketing perspective, he said, what Sipes and Bojrab are doing is a "good move."

The men hope to form relationships with executive coaches like Roth, who will refer clients to Indiana Health Group. The pair is also talking up their executive-services suite to corporate human resources departments, including Eli Lilly and Co.

"I've had people from Lilly who say to me, 'I hope I don't run into someone in the waiting room,'" Sipes said. "Some people don't care about that. But for those that do, we want to make sure they feel comfortable."
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