AdventHealth Well 65+ Delivers Exceptional Primary Care Customized to Each Patient
The long-anticipated age wave is now upon us. Tens of thousands of Americans are turning 65, 75, and 85 every day – many in Florida, which now has the nation’s highest percentage of adults 65+, at 21%, and growing.
Unfortunately, our culture tends to view all older adults as a single homogeneous group, failing to recognize what may be the most diverse demographic of all time. They are diverse in every way, including in their healthcare needs and desires.
Identifying the Problem with Typical Primary Care Offices
This dramatic increase in people 65+ has strained primary care practices throughout the state. Many practices schedule 15-minute appointments with doctors who are seeing 30 to 40 patients every day. This makes understanding and adequately treating older adults very difficult.
“In the typical primary care office, doctors are so busy seeing so many people, that they regularly refer to specialists simply because they don’t have time to do what they’re capable of,” says Dr. Robert Rodgers. “As we get older, and have multiple health issues, navigating the healthcare system can be difficult and intimidating and the thought that our primary care physician is going to send us to five different places for tests or treatments that could be accessed in one location is frustrating. What often happens is that older adults, concerned about a possible health issue, will call their doctor only to be told they can’t be seen for two weeks or more. So, out of an abundance of caution, they go to the ER and have multiple tests done.”
A New Model of Care for Older Adults
Dr. Rodgers is chief medical officer for Advent Health Well 65+, a new primary care model of care for older adults. “We asked ourselves, what is true whole-person care for this demographic? How can we help individuals 65 and older reach their personal health goals? We identified a true need, a gap in the care delivery system, and we committed to filling that gap.”
The result is Well 65+, a bold, mission-driven commitment to deliver individualized whole-person care to Central Florida seniors.
“The number one differentiator is access,” says Dr. Rodgers. “We now have capacity to get people in that day and, if necessary, perform tests right here in our office. We’re bringing unnecessary referrals back in, eliminating unnecessary care, and preventing patients from having to drive around all over town to see specialists for issues their primary care doc can handle. That said, we have very strong relationships with a vast network of specialists to cover any needs and, when necessary, we can get patients in to see them much quicker. But if we’re successful, we keep you out of hospitals and out of ERs. We keep you healthy and we provide the right care in the right place.”
If access to doctors is the number one differentiator at Well 65+, time with your doctor and having your own healthcare team are differentiators number two and three. “Older adults don’t want to be rushed,” says Shelia Tillman, Well 65+ director of operations. “They need quality time with their doctor to explain exactly what’s going on and to ask questions. Many times, they have a child that lives out of state, and they want to be able to explain things to them. We take our time with our patients.”
“Older adults typically have more health issues and more complex health issues,” says Christine Hansen, Well 65+ chief operating officer. “One thing that I really love about our model is that our physicians are not seeing 30 to 40 patients a day like many primary care practices. They’re seeing 10 to 12 patients a day, scheduling 30 to 60-minute appointments, and giving their full attention to each one.
“Our patients also have access to an entire care team. We have registered nurses, licensed social workers and health coaches at every practice. We have on-site labs. Everything is under one roof. It’s a patient-centered medical home that helps manage chronic conditions and provides patient education. If the patient can’t drive any more, we can even provide transportation for them.”
In addition to caring for chronic disease, preventive medicine and lifestyle modification assistance are an important part of Well 65+. The care team tailors individual exercise and activity programs for each patient. “We will always need our acute care facilities because people do get sick,” says Dr. Rodgers. “But we have a strong focus on preventative health and if we can keep you out of those and in your home and in our offices, then we’ve succeeded.”
A Model That Attracts Top Talent
The Well 65+ team approach to care is attracting some of the nation’s top physicians. “My grandfather was my father figure,” says Rodgers. “He was a traditional old-time, country doc in southwest Michigan. I went on house calls with him and watched him. From day one, I knew what kind of physician I wanted to become. And I know what kind of physicians I want to bring to Well 65+. A common thread among our doctors is a love of older adults and a commitment to providing the absolute best care possible to each one.”
“Until I joined the Well 65+ team, I was a lone ranger,” says Dr. Cheryl Oh. “Everything depended on me. I was always frustrated with not having enough time, being rushed, and feeling that I want to do more for patients. Now, I’m given more time and able to provide the kind of care that I hope I can receive when I’m older. I have a social worker to help care not just for the physical, but also the emotional and the social. Many older adults are living alone and can be lonely or depressed. We have counseling, grief support, and stress management. When the time comes, I want to be here. I want somebody to care for me just like I’m caring for them.”
“I think our providers actually see their patients as family,” says Tillman. “Listening to them, caring for them, and giving them the attention that they need.”
“I did my residency in geriatrics and one thing that drew me to this patient population is their stories, their life experiences, and having the time to sit down and really hear and listen to them,” says Dr. Shashi Yoganand. “It gives them satisfaction that they’re talking to someone who actually wants to hear their life story.”
“I was raised in a multi-generational household,” says Dr. Maria Gonzalez. “My mom was a doctor and my grandma had to help to care for us while mom was on call in the hospital. My interest in geriatrics started when I began investigating the best person to serve my grandma’s needs. I truly enjoy working with older adults. I appreciate the experience that they have and what they bring to our conversation. There is a pace to an encounter with older people that is very rewarding. When you work with them you also get to work with their families.”
Wellness Suites Replace Exam Rooms
Entering a Well 65+ practice feels more like walking into a nice hotel than into a doctor’s office. There’s lots of natural light, beautiful furniture, and art on the walls. The hallways and doors are wide and exam rooms have been replaced with large wellness suites. Everything has been built from the ground up to enhance patient experience and convenience. “The wellness suites are much bigger than typical exam rooms and everything that the patient is going to need during that visit is in that room,” says Rodgers. “They never have to move around for different procedures or even to check out. That’s handled in the suite with a care coordinator.”
Each wellness suite has large monitors for physicians to share lab results with patients and plenty of room for family members to sit and be part of the visit. In addition to wellness suites, every Well 65+ practice has a large community room that is programmed with everything from grief recovery seminars to diabetic education and cooking classes, and IT training classes.
Guided by a Spiritual Mission
Well 65+ is part of AdventHealth, which is well known for delivering compassionate care tailored to each individual. “What struck me about AdventHealth is their spiritual mission,” says Hansen. “Their commitment to act as Christ does, to deliver behavioral health, physical health, and spiritual health to all who need it. If you can align those three, your senior years will look much sunnier.”
“You have to take time to listen because one person’s desires and wellbeing goals may be completely different from what mine, even as their physician, are,” says Dr. Rodgers. “We have to ask and fully understand, ‘What’s wholeness to you?’ It really comes down to understanding what the patient wants and how best to help them try to get there. We focus on total health — mind, body, and spirit, and we make sure that every patient has everything that they need to live their best life.”
Well 65+ is a dedicated team of passionate providers delivering a new standard of care for adults 65+. Patient experience scores and physician engagement scores are already among the highest in the country. “It gives me that satisfaction knowing that I’m going to come to work every morning and actually make a difference,” says Yoganand. “We’re treating the whole person. Taking care of them the way they’re supposed to be taken care of. Personally, I think 65 is the start of a new era, a new time in your life.”
There are nine Well 65+ practices throughout the I-4 Corridor with plans to continue expanding in 2024. Well 65+ practices take original Medicare and nearly all Medicare Advantage plans. For information visit: www.adventhealth.com/adventhealth-well-65
This article is featured in the Winter 2023 issue of The Growing Bolder Digital Digest.