A national health care company focused on providing primary care to Medicare patients is expanding to Albuquerque.
The first New Mexico health center operated by Oak Street Health Inc. is opening its doors to patients today, Thursday. The 9,300-square-foot center, located at 5555 Zuni SE, is the company’s first of four planned centers in Albuquerque, with others slated to open over the next several months. Cristal Chavez-Medrano, regional vice president at Oak Street, said the centers are different from a typical doctor’s office in that it provides managed care for Medicare patients who have been left underserved by traditional medical practices.
“We … focus on keeping our patients healthy, happy, and out of the hospital,” Chavez-Medrano said.
Stephen Sproul, senior medical director for Oak Street, said Medicare patients face a different set of health challenges than many other populations. Many are on multiple medications, and some patients, particularly those from underserved areas, are more likely to been neglected by other medical professionals.
“Most patients as they get older have more and more health conditions that need to be taken care of,” Sproul said.
Chavez-Medrano said Oak Street’s model, which emphasizes extensive meeting time between patients and doctors, has proven successful at keeping patients out of the hospital. She said Oak Street patients are 51% less likely to be admitted to a hospital than a typical Medicare patient. If they are admitted to a hospital, Chavez-Medrano added that Oak Street patients are 42% less likely to be re-admitted within 30 days. She pointed to the company’s 24-hour phone line and prompt access to doctors as reasons for the success.
“We take pride in same-day, or next-day access for our patients,” Chavez-Medrano said. “That’s what really helps to keep our patients out of the ER.”
She added that Oak Street, which operates in 16 other states, seeks out markets that have a shortage of resources for Medicare patients.
Rather than a fee-for-service model, where tests, visits and other services each generate a payment, Oak Street uses a value-based payment model where the company partners with private insurance plans to receive a percentage of each member’s monthly payment, according to investor materials on Oak Street’s website.
When the company enters a market, Chavez-Medrano said it seeks out insurance groups to partner with and accept patients from. In Albuquerque, Chavez-Medrano said Oak Street will be accepting patients from Presbyterian Health Plan, Humana, Amerigroup and Cigna.
She added that Oak Street will send its outreach team to churches, food pantries, assisted living facilities and other community centers to make connections with local residents on Medicare. For patients who lack transportation, Oak Street offers a free van that will pick up patients within a certain radius as a courtesy, Chavez-Medrano said.
“We really focus on removing those socioeconomic barriers to be able to get to see your doctor,” she said.
The center on Zuni Road is just the start for Oak Street in Albuquerque. The company is planning to open two other centers – one at Central Avenue and Atrisco Drive, the other at 4th Street and Montaño Road NW – in October. A fourth center, at Rio Bravo Boulevard and Isleta Boulevard SW, is slated to open in January. Chavez-Medrano said each facility can handle around 3,500 patients, and will employ between 18 and 20 people.