Published April 20, 2010
Volume 18, Number 4

Editha Mallari: Committed to Compassionate Care

By Nicole Zaro Stahl

Editha Mallari’s latest business venture comes straight from the heart. As an accounting graduate, she has always taken numbers seriously. They were the basis of an early career in banking, and they still play a key role in the insurance agency she has been running for the past 20 years. Recently, though, business became much more personal. Mallari passed through a sad chapter in her life, but in the process she extracted a solution to a health care need that she felt was not being properly met.

 In the fall of 2008, just a few months after her older sister had succumbed to breast cancer, Mallari started LifeGuard Home Health. This agency provides “good, reliable home health support” from clinicians--skilled nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, medical social workers, and home health aides. The professional helpers carry out physician orders, nursing homebound patients back to optimum health in the comfort of familiar surroundings.

Mallari’s terminally ill sister did not have this type of compassionate support. “I was very active in my sister’s care, from January to May, 2008,” Mallari recalls. “I would have to call the agency and tell them how she was, instead of them telling me. The nurses that came in would only say hello from the foot of the bed. They wouldn’t get close or give my sister a soothing touch. Even though she was very ill, they did not try to make her feel better. I didn’t think they were doing a very good job.” 

The striking thing about this experience is that it unfortunately paralleled the illness and subsequent death of another sister four years before. The medical condition was different, but the indifference of the professional care was the same. “Our family was never told that there was a proactive approach we could have taken in her recovery,” Mallari says.

After the loss of her second sibling, Mallari realized something was missing in the home health marketplace and resolved to correct the situation. “When you see a member of your family uncomfortable and suffering, you want others not to have to go through the same thing,” she notes. “I was driven by the experiences with my sisters. They told me to do this for other people.”

Mallari hit on the solution of starting a home health agency that guaranteed attentive care to patients and insisted on compassion from its employees. Then she got down to work attending to the details. Unlike round-the-clock homecare, which offers assistance such as housekeeping and light cooking, LifeGuard Home Health personnel deliver skilled medical care. The agency is the next step in recovery, after patients are discharged from a hospital or a skilled nursing or rehab facility to their own homes.

“By order of the physician, we visit the patient and do an assessment, intervention, or education,” she explains. For example, a clinician might perform wound care, monitor a patient with diabetes, or provide physical therapy to help the patient walk again. “We help people recover in the safety and comfort of their own homes.”

Collaborating with her family, she dealt with the most immediate tasks: licensing from the Department of Public Health; accreditation from JCAHO, the highest accreditation possible for a home health agency; and qualifying for Medicare certification. Her son Jeffrey, who had just graduated from Santa Clara University, was of particular help. “I asked him if he wanted to start the company,” she says. “He told me he was up for the challenge, so we did it.

“My vision of this company was guided by my experiences with my sisters, who showed me that patients should be treated fairly and given a compassionate helping hand,” she continues. “We wanted LifeGuard Home Health to be a different type of agency. Some are just there for money, but our number-one concern is the patient. Whenever we interview clinicians, we tell them about our own personal experiences.” 

Mallari’s message obviously resonates, as the positive feedback from patient surveys attests. “I consider us to be very successful. Our clinicians are proactive about the patients’ well-being. We don’t have to be big to be good, as long as patient care is our highest priority.”

Mallari’s helping orientation has deep-seated roots. Growing up in the Philippines, she remembers one time when her family was in need. Her parents asked relatives for help, but none was forthcoming. It was a defining moment.

“That made me realize it is better to give than to receive,” she explains. “It made me who I am. I always think about helping people. For me, money has never been driving force in a transaction. When I approach new clients, it is with the thought, ‘Why would they buy from me? What benefits do they need?’ It is not about making money by selling. I have never sold a product. What I do is provide a service.”

Still, she also learned a lot about business from her parents, who were determined to control their own destiny as owners, not employees. “They owned their own general store and farm land. I think my business sense came from them.”

Another significant influence was her place in the family constellation--the youngest of eight children, born over a span of 13 years. “With so many in the family, you learn from your older brothers and sisters,” she remarks. “You try to either mimic what they do, or you do your own thing.”

With their parents’ insistence that they finish college, all siblings became professionals: two engineers, three accountants, one attorney, one in marketing, and one in healthcare. “My parents were dedicated to seeing us get our degrees before leaving to work in the U.S. We came one by one. As the youngest, I was the last to get here.”

Her first job here was a bank clerk; she left after a year and worked her way up to the controller’s post in another organization. In 1990 she decided to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become a business owner herself. She started Mallari Insurance Services in Castro Valley, offering commercial and personal insurance to a growing client base that now consists predominantly of doctors, dentists, and business owners.

In October 2009 she moved the insurance agency into new quarters in Hacienda, and the health care business followed this past February. “Our offices are side by side, and it’s just wonderful,” she says. The Pleasanton location is also closer to her home in Dublin. Son Jeffrey, whose degree is in accounting and management information systems, has taken over as CFO of LifeGuard Home Health and now oversees daily operations. 

In late March Mallari held an open house for clients and prospects, many of them discharge planners from hospitals and physicians’ offices in the East Bay, the Tri-Valley, and the Central Valley. “From the sidelines I overheard several conversations about how their experiences with LifeGuard Home Health have been positive. They were impressed with the sincerity of my presentation. Patients say we are efficient and compassionate. It’s a good feeling to be validated,” she concludes. 


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