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A wave of new business is attempting to shake up, improve primary care.
Oak Street Health, one of new wave primary care businesses, is opening up centers in Memphis and Dallas-Fort Worth as part of an expansion that company officials say will add eight new centers during the first half of this year, bringing its total to 64.
“We want to be everywhere there is a need,” says Tamara Jurgenson, the chief growth officer.
The dearth of primary care in the United States and the harm that ensues is commonly lamented. But in the last few years, a number of companies have come on strong with plans and promises that they can fill the primary care void and refashion primary care in the process
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Oak Street Health, which is based in Chicago, was co-founded in 2012 by Mike Pykosz, Geoff Price, and Griffin Myers. Its financing has come from three private equity firms: General Atlantic, Newlight Partners, and Harbour Point Capital.
Jurgenson said Oak Street added clinics in nearby states first and is now spreading out to other parts of the country. In deciding where to open a center, the organization considers the Medicare population, its needs, and the density of the existing services. Florida has many primary care providers, she notes, so there’s less need there.
Oak Street accepts patients covered by traditional, fee-for-service Medicare as well as those enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, Jurgenson says. Through a spokesperson, Oak Street officials said the company does not make money on the FFS patients.
Jurgenson says Oak Street’s model, which emphasizes team care, has achieved a 41% reduction in hospital admissions and 49% in visits to the emergency departments. Its teams include a physician, a nurse practitioner, a social worker, a scribe, and a medical assistant. The company’s 10,0000-square-foot centers typically house 5-7 care teams.
Oak Street doesn’t have any plans to offer care beyond teh Medicare population, says Jurgenson. The older, sometimes sicker population with Medicare coverage is where Oak Street can have the most impact, she explains.
Outreach workers are an important part of Oak Street’s model, Jurgenson says. They go to churches and “wherever seniors congregate” to encourage them to become patients at their centers.