OhioHealth: Healthcare Achievement Awards 2020

Lin Rice
Dr. Paul Hicks and Tom Shanahan of ChenMed with Dr. Jim O'Brien of OhioHealth, center.

Healthcare Achievement Awards 2020

Trailblazer Award - Organization


A new program aimed at improving the long-term health of one of Central Ohio’s most vulnerable populations has earned Columbus-based health system OhioHealth this year’s Healthcare Trailblazer Award.

Each year, Columbus CEO magazine recognizes outstanding health care professionals and organizations for making a difference in the lives of their patients, colleagues and community. The Healthcare Trailblazer Award recognizes a company or individual for innovative or entrepreneurial health-care initiatives that improve the practice of medicine or delivery of care to patients.

And while it’s only been off the ground for a few months, a new partnership between OhioHealth and primary-care provider ChenMed aimed at serving elderly patients has been improving the delivery of care to some of Central Ohio’s most-needed areas.

Launched in October, the partnership has opened three medical centers specifically for seniors—one each in Whitehall, Northland and the West Side on North Wilson Road. Available to Medicare-eligible patients over the age of 65, the centers are designed with wellness in mind. Rather than treating people only after they get sick, the centers provide preventative care before major health concerns get worse.

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The centers design personalized care to improve trust and communication between patient and doctor, and they work to remove the barriers that some elderly patients face to accessing health care, such as transportation, says Dr. Jim O’Brien, OhioHealth vice president of population health.

“These are all patients with a variety of health issues. For them, making a trip and paying for each individual issue doesn’t make sense for their needs,” O’Brien says. “By contrast, doctors at these centers meet with their patients, who are enrolled as members, once a month. It’s a more affordable model for that population.”

Staffed by primary-care physicians, the centers offer qualifying patients unlimited visits, walk-in appointments, on-site cardiology, medication dispensing, imaging, labs, healthy lifestyle classes and even give patients their physician’s cell phone number. Most costs of care are covered by fixed reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid, along with Medicare Advantage supplemental insurance.

Karen Morrison, president of the OhioHealth Foundation and senior vice president for OhioHealth, says the health system is excited about the model’s potential to help an aging Central Ohio population that greatly needs it.

“To say that OhioHealth is optimistic about this revolutionary approach to senior care would be an understatement,” Morrison says. “Truly, it’s the way health care should be delivered to improve the health of seniors, especially those who find themselves in difficult circumstances. Many are housing insecure and without insurance or transportation of their own, leaving them with few to no options to receive the care (including medications and treatment) they need—in some cases to simply survive to see another day.”

O’Brien says the centers are in the process of screening and signing up members; 550 were enrolled as of Dec. 20. It will take a few years for the centers to reach full capacity, but OhioHealth anticipates about 8,000 patients will be served in all, with the potential to open additional sites serving up to 20,000 in the future.

By focusing on preventative care, OhioHealth anticipates the program will result in 50 percent fewer hospital admissions compared with the standard primary-care practice, and 28 percent lower costs per member.

“I think what everyone recognizes is that the costs associated with health care aren’t sustainable, in terms of how they’re growing,” O’Brien says. “As a country, we have to face the fact that the costs are getting higher, while people are getting better results in other countries. Something’s got to give.”

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Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts says the partnership is providing care to some of the city’s residents who need it most.

“OhioHealth and ChenMed are trailblazing a new approach to health care, making it significantly easier for seniors to receive the quality care they need by reducing barriers,” Roberts says. “I believe this game-changing endeavor between OhioHealth and ChenMed will be replicated nationwide to help vulnerable elderly people all across the country.”

The model helps physicians as well, she says.

“They’ve found a much better way to take care of our own, building a model that works for patients and their providers alike,” she says. “It is a privilege to have them in our community as they transform geriatric medicine.”

Lin Rice is a freelance writer for Columbus CEO.