AllyAlign Health has opened a primary care clinic at a continuing care retirement community (CCRC) in Virginia. The move is part of a larger trend of bringing primary care into senior living settings, and is perhaps the first step in a larger plan from AllyAlign.
The Glen Allen, Virginia-based company helps senior living providers launch and run Medicare Advantage plans. It opened the new clinic last month at Lakewood, a CCRC managed by LifeSpire of Virginia in Richmond.
The basic idea was to give the CCRC a new way to provide and fund onsite primary care — something that many providers have identified as a need in discussions with AllyAlign, according to Amy Kaszak, the company’s president of special needs plans.
“[There has been] a lot more discussion about how to bring care into the home, assisted living and independent living experience, and a lot of different ways to do it,” Kaszak said. “But it is something that a lot of providers are struggling with.”
At Lakewood’s clinic, residents can visit for a variety of primary care services and have the option of paying for it through an AllyAlign MA plan. The clinic is staffed by a nurse practitioner and medical assistant, along with a registered nurse who splits their time between working for the CCRC and AllyAlign’s clinic. The clinic isn’t meant to replace Lakewood’s care services, but instead supplement them where needed.
“We can help fill in the gaps and provide the extra monitoring and preventive services that they don’t always have time to,” Kaszak said.
For AllyAlign, the clinic represents a foothold in a trend that may accelerate in the senior living industry as time goes on. The company is mulling over ways to undertake similar projects with other partners if all goes as planned at Lakewood, Kaszak said.
Offering primary care services in an onsite clinic is not new in senior living, and providers including Bloomfield, New Jersey-based Juniper Communities have used it to improve outcomes and hospitalization rates. A more recent example of the trend is a new partnership involving primary care provider Oak Street Health and four assisted living communities in Illinois that are managed by Chicago-based Pathway to Living.
In cases like these, the delivery of onsite primary care is part of a larger integration of senior living within the health care system at large, tying communities more closely to payers while also making them better partners to managed care entities.
But not every past model has been successful, Kaszak noted, and she believes Medicare Advantage is a crucial component to making the arrangement work on the financial side.
“We’ve seen a lot of owners who have maybe tried to put this in themselves on a fee-for-service-only basis, and it doesn’t always work,” she said. “So if we can combine the fee-for-service … with the funding through payment from our Medicare Advantage plan as residents enroll, now you have a financially viable option.”
Indeed, organizations such as Juniper have argued that onsite primary care is a crucial component of Medicare Advantage success, for senior living organizations that are launching their own plans, as Juniper is doing with AllyAlign. Having onsite primary care enables the provider-slash-payer to more closely manage beneficiary health and wellness and prevent expensive episodes of care that result in insurance claims.
AllyAlign first opened the clinic on July 15, and in the past month or so has worked to build up its patient load. Initial resident feedback has been “very good,” according to Kaszak.
“We have found multiple opportunities to coordinate with the Lakewood wellness team in identifying some of the ‘hidden’ higher-risk patients in independent living, and addressing their needs,” Kaszak said. “As well as coordinating with the AL and SNF medical directors to provide additional services, like EKGs, as needed.”
Additionally, about 90% of the residents who have visited the clinic so far have opted to make it their primary care practice as opposed to simply using it for urgent or as-needed care.
“This, to me, is a sign of the demand for the convenience and safety of on-campus primary care,” Kaszak said.