South Central Kansas Medical Center is planning to bring a new concept in health and wellness to Cowley County through a new clinic that will open in January 2018.

Direct Primary Care presentation

Photo by Clayton Pappan/South Central Kansas Medical Center

Kansas Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield, standing in front, speaks to the South Central Kansas Medical Center Board of Trustees on Oct. 19 about Direct Primary Care as chief of staff Dr. Perry Lin, left; CEO Virgil Watson, middle; Carol Hearne, board chair; and Carmine Di Palo, Revere Healthcare Solutions chairman and CEO, standing in back, listen.

The clinic will be located on the medical center campus and is offered through a partnership with Revere Healthcare Solutions (RHS) Inc.

This Direct Primary Care clinic will provide direct access to primary care, with a strong emphasis on preventative health care.

“It’s a concept different from what we are used to. What we are used to now is that you wait until you’re sick to go to the doctor,” said Virgil Watson, SCKMC’s chief executive officer.

“With this concept, we are going to be proactive and start looking at wellness as the central core of our health care delivery going forward for our employees.”

The clinic is employer-driven, meaning it is designed to be offered as a benefit to a company’s employees with no out-of-pocket deductibles or office visit co-pays for individuals who are covered through the program.

“Today, the general population has to face at least a $25 copay to receive primary care. That barrier represents a reason to not take care of your condition early on, but wait in hope that the condition will eventually just cure itself,” said Carmine Di Palo, RHS’s chairman and chief executive officer.

“When it doesn’t cure itself, the condition that was a primary care issue becomes a much more expensive form of care for the employee and for the employer. The clinic starts not only intercepting visits that would have gone to the much higher level of acuity and expenses, but also over time allows the population to become healthier and therefore less risky to ensure while allowing (the employer) more control in the health care premiums.”

Di Palo’s business strategy is based on the conviction that because there is no out-of-pocket cost to the program’s members, it is more likely that patients not only will receive treatment earlier, but also take advantage of preventative services such as annual physicals, personal health improvement plans and chronic condition management for such issues as diabetes, obesity or tobacco addiction.

As the employee population becomes healthier, insurance claims should go down, and the combination provides employers with more leverage when negotiating their insurance premiums, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars over time.

Kansas Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield, is a proponent of the Direct Primary Care model. He attended the SCKMC Board of Trustees meeting in October to discuss the benefits of the Direct Primary Care model for both the medical center and community.

“There has got to be a better way to deliver health care to Kansas,” Alley said. “I think this is something that can benefit our hospital here. It can benefit our community. I really believe that if we change the discussion of health care from dollars to what’s best for the patient, how can we improve health care for that patient, it will be a great thing.”

Alley has visited RHS’s clinic in Garden City. Through the past five years, that clinic has grown to provide services to six employer groups, covering approximately 900 individuals for about 3,200 visits per year.

“The Garden City city manager said of their clinic, ‘That is the best benefit we can offer our employees.’ He said, ‘If we try to take that clinic out of our health care plans now, I would have a revolt on our hands.’ They have 300-plus employees out there,” Alley said.

“He said the very first year they implemented this plan, it saved the City of Garden City $300,000. In the last five years, they have not had a health insurance premium go up, holding steady since 2012. What has yours here done?”

Employers interested in learning more about the Direct Primary Care clinic should contact Watson at South Central Kansas Medical Center by calling (620) 442-2500.

This information was provided by South Central Kansas Medical Center Marketing Director Clayton Pappan.