PinnacleCare ( is a five-year-old patient advocacy firm. Its 80 employees provide 2,800 members with efficient access to the best possible health care experiences and expert guidance through the health care system. The firm's goal: to help individuals and families lead the healthiest lives possible.

The health care system is incredibly complex. The knowledge is out there; finding it and accessing it is the challenge. We function as a trusted advisor to our members on all aspects of their health, and our mission is to ensure that they realize their highest expectations for their health.

We go beyond concierge medicine, providing access to the best doctors; consolidating and maintaining complete medical records; following up and partnering with the doctor if a member does not understand his or her treatment. We will even attend a doctor's visit with our members. Our members do not have to manage the health care system alone.

Our work is comparable to a remodeler who has a good relationship with a family. The family turns to them for counsel on any aspect of remodeling — large or small. The relationship is based on trust and caring service.

Our work is also based on relationships. Members are assigned a personal health advocate who has a deep knowledge of their health issues. Advocates are backed by a team of Ph.D. researchers and physicians.

MEMBER PRIVILEGES PinnacleCare members include affluent families, senior executives, and individuals who pay an annual membership fee. They pay for their doctors and other therapists through their medical insurance or, sometimes, out of pocket.

Most new members come to us through member referrals. The most important thing we do to encourage referrals is to provide remarkable service. PinnacleCare advocates pride themselves on anticipating what members will need and executing it in a timely manner. There is nothing more valuable we can do for our members, and that is the case for all great businesses. For example, if a member is scheduled for surgery, we tell them what they can do to make their recovery easier and the results optimal.

Our members have access to us 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The most important part of customer service is treating people even better than they thought they wanted to be treated. Behind the scenes, PinnacleCare advocates are working hard on an issue, but the member may not realize it. It is important for us to continuously let members know that we are thinking about them. We never assume they know or feel that.

We are revolutionizing the way health care is accessed, so we must educate members on how to partner with us to get the most from their membership. We consider it a gift to us when members complain — we can't learn without input from them. It goes back to trust and communication. We encourage members to be vocal, and when they are, we praise them with a thank-you note.

PROFESSIONAL ADVOCATES We seek employees from the health care industry. During the hiring process, the potential employee meets a lot of people in the company and shadows a senior advocate for the day. We are a close-knit group, so whoever comes in must fit our culture.

To sustain growth, no matter how big the company, everyone should be aware of the purpose of the organization, its unified goals, and its culture. We have a mentoring program for new advocates where they learn from a more senior advocate. Also, each Monday and Friday morning we issue an e-mail “wow” story to the whole staff about remarkable customer service and teamwork — anything from helping someone who broke a tooth on vacation to finding the one surgeon in the U.S. willing to tackle a complex cancer situation. By sharing these real accounts throughout our organization, we build the culture of service that we aspire to achieve for all our members. The “wow” stories idea came from a Ritz-Carlton seminar I attended, and I have also researched other companies' methods. Some members have agreed to allow us to publish these “wow” stories on our Web site.

Every month we also focus on one of our core values. We ask our staff to nominate employees who represent these core values. The winner receives a prize.

Our employees are always learning. They are fascinated by medicine and science, and they love working with people. As long as we can provide them with that enriched environment, they are happy here.