Centerwell Senior Care

The Value of Accessible Personalized Primary Care

Older white woman in medical office with doctor and nurse

Senior-focused healthcare has been the primary focus of my career, and one thing that has always stood out to me while caring for aging patients is how invaluable the relationships with their care team can be. 

My colleague Dr. Robert Zorowitz, Humana’s Regional Vice President of Health Services, recently reflected on this very topic, specifically the critical role that a primary care physician (PCP) plays in helping us stay healthy and active. He shared that, “When we reach ‘senior’ status, it is possible that we will have at least one chronic condition – in fact, about 80% of us will have two or more… and it can be confusing if you need to see multiple medical providers and take a variety of medications. Having a primary care doctor who knows you, your health history, and your risk factors is crucial.” Dr. Zorowitz is absolutely right, and the data backs him up. Seniors who spend time with their primary care providers, specifically with those who practice in a value-based care model, experience fewer hospitalizations, fewer emergency room visits, more necessary preventive care screenings and overall cost savings throughout the year on healthcare expenses. This article highlights the improved health outcomes experienced through a value-based care model, explaining why having a physician who truly knows you, understands your unique personal needs, and can offer the right-sized support and resources along your healthcare journey is so important to achieving your best health.

Unfortunately, just having a PCP doesn’t always guarantee access to high-quality, personalized care. Most of the healthcare system operates within a fee-for-service model, which incentivizes quantity over quality. When it comes to primary care, this often results in long waits to get an appointment with a PCP, to then only have as little as 10 - 15 minutes to discuss your needs. Furthermore, communication between the PCP and other care providers, such as cardiologists, endocrinologists, and other specialists, is fragmented at best. Take my mom’s experience which is reflective of what many seniors often face. She is 86 with multiple chronic conditions and very limited mobility. Luckily, Mom has a wonderful and caring PCP whom she loves, but the health system she works in presents challenges for patients and clinicians. For example, it takes 6-9 months for Mom to get an appointment with her PCP – someone she has seen for 14 years! Mom also sees 6 other specialists who work in different health systems, and let’s just say the communication between them and her PCP is suboptimal. When my Mom has a new symptom or needs care quickly, she usually can’t see her PCP and the wait to see any clinician is longer than it should be. Her PCP has a patient panel size in the thousands and sees 20 or more patients each day, which means each patient has a very limited amount of time with her and overall access to the clinic is reduced. I know her PCP and other physicians are frustrated because they want to provide the best possible care and coordinate care seamlessly for their patients, but the fee-for-service system works against them. To truly support seniors in maintaining and improving their health, a different approach is needed. This is where CenterWell’s value-based care model is making a difference. 

In case you aren’t familiar, CenterWell is a Humana Inc. company and a leading senior-focused primary care organization dedicated to creating holistic and differentiated healthcare experiences for seniors. CenterWell is focused on addressing the physical, emotional and social wellness of our patients. The secret ingredient? Time. Clinic appointments are up to 40 minutes long and patients can often get in to see their primary care clinician on the same day or same week. Clinicians have many more resources to help address their patients’ needs, including an on-site social worker and a care coach to help with the transition from hospital to home. The result is quality healthcare that is accessible, comprehensive, and, most of all, personalized. Seniors in senior-focused primary care settings, like CenterWell, had 21% more visits with their primary care provider over the course of a year and had 8% fewer hospitalizations compared to patients who used traditional primary care clinics. To see this whole-person care in action, I encourage you to read CenterWell President, Dr. Sanjay Shetty’s article  about how seniors thrive in value-based care models and get to know some of our clinicians and patients at our CenterWell Primary Care Center in Biloxi, Miss.

We all aspire to live a long and healthy life and deserve accessible, high-quality care. A senior-focused PCP can be your best resource in this endeavor. They can help you stay on the path to wellness, advocate for you when chronic conditions arise, and be your best ally in aging well.