VillageMD is homing in on wellness and taking steps to develop an industry standard in value-based care for older patients.
The primary care provider, majority-owned by Walgreens, launched the New Way to Well initiative for its Village Medical clinics in June, focusing on care coordination, better access and customizable Stay Well Care Plans for patients with chronic diseases. VillageMD rolled out Stay Well Care Plan-Advanced for older patients with multiple medical conditions in Houston last month and aims to expand it nationwide.
Chicago-based VillageMD is on a growth trajectory, most recently opening hundreds of Village Medical primary care clinics co-located with Walgreens stores. The company plans to open 1,000 of the co-located clinics by 2027. In January, VillageMD closed on an $8.9 billion deal to acquire Summit Health-CityMD, which further expands its footprint in primary, urgent and specialty care. VillageMD operates 700 practices in 26 markets.
Modern Healthcare spoke with VillageMD Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stuart Levine and Dr. Bryan Becker, national medical director of the Texas region, about the motivation behind the Stay Well Care Plan-Advanced and how the service fits into the company’s broader strategy. Their answers are edited for length and clarity.
1. What does Stay Well Care Plan-Advanced look like for patients?
Levine: We’re trying to take all the learnings that we’ve developed in healthcare over the past 25 years to come up with the very best new fabric that meets the needs of patients. What we’re responsible for is helping navigate and guide them through [their] journey. What you really need to make this journey successful is to ensure that transitions between each stage in life and each stage of health and disease is smooth and flawless and to ensure that those handoffs are done flawlessly.
Becker: When a patient comes in to see her or his doctor and that patient is both older and has a lot of things going on with them, the physician can look at that patient and say, ‘Well, we actually have a specialized type of team that can deliver for you certain things that we normally don’t [do] or find it sometimes challenging to do as we’re just doing an office visit with you.’ That team will work around you, so you’re the center of their care.
What they can offer you: No. 1, access to one of my colleagues who’s very knowledgeable about how to take care of patients that have multiple medical problems; second, other members of the care team … such as some of our nurse practitioners who are well-schooled in very complex patients that have multiple things happening for them; third, access to pharmacy support, so that we can constantly review, address and get to the right set of medications for you that accentuate their benefit for you and reduce the likelihood of problems arising from that.
Also, in your visit, you can meet with one of our care coordinators who can help you with other needs that relate to your healthcare. It could be support for how you get back and forth to appointments, or making certain that we’re aligning you with the right resources so that you can have access to some better options for getting your groceries. That team does several things for you differently than what we do in our clinic. They’re available for you 24/7, 365.
If they’re worried about you, they’re going to give you a call every Friday to make certain that you’re ready and able to tackle the weekend. They’re going to make certain that they’re engaging you and caregivers if needed in really important conversations about what we’re going to adjust for the care of one of your conditions. Before you go to the emergency department or before you even think about going to urgent care, they’re the ones that you can call, and they actually will make an effort to see you that day.
2. Where will Stay Well Care Plan-Advanced be available next?
Levine: Everywhere. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Atlanta, Phoenix. Then we’ll go to other settings such as Detroit, Colorado, Bend, Oregon, and beyond. The way VillageMD stands out is that we’re one of the only groups—if not the only group—that really is focused on taking care of entire communities by taking risk on all lines of business, not just Medicare Advantage, and meeting the needs of patients.
3. Do you see Stay Well Care Plan-Advanced as a growth opportunity?
Levine: First and foremost, we’re taking care of the patients we already have and moving as many of the current patients that we have, which is about 7 million, all to risk arrangements where we are holistically responsible for their care. But then, by having these specialized programs … we’ll also be attracting other patients that come to us. It’s not like we’re trying to do this as a new business line, per se.
4. How does this build on VillageMD’s patient care strategy?
Becker: It represents the consistent evolution of risk- and value-based care as it’s present in the United States. We are a national medical group that wants to and is very willing to be innovative, build a lot of trust with our patients, and … look at how do we take on that responsibility for managing our patients and their total cost of care.
When you know there’s a group of patients that use a lot of extra resources, a model like this helps not just to give those patients better care but reduces their unnecessary healthcare utilization. It’s not that they’re not going to use healthcare resources. We are never going to refuse care. We’re going to make certain the right care is being delivered as frequently and as appropriately as possible. Our goal with this model is to reduce the unnecessary care, and when we’re taking and venturing into risk- and value-based care, we deliver greater value.
Levine: This is concierge care for a senior patient without a concierge fee. They still have the ability to go back to their primary care but, in general, they choose to only visit them one or two times a year.
5. What do you envision for the future of this offering?
Levine: I want us to be as good, if not better, than the other programs. We want to get to the same standard of excellence that predecessors have come to that oftentimes people today have forgotten about. I think that will give us a lasting legacy that will distinguish [us] from everybody else. We’re thinking about the next 100 years of taking care of patients, not the next five. We’re building for the future.