AVOIDING THE RUSH: Aurora primary care service focuses on making time with patients and docs



AURORA | Everyone has had one of those too-quick doctor visits where you wonder if the physician even caught your name before they jotted down some notes and bolted from the exam room.

For seniors, who tend to make more visits to the doctor than younger folks, those quick in-and-out-did-they-even-catch-my-name visits can be especially frustrating.

A chain of primary care clinics with a year-old location in Aurora is aiming to change that — mandating not just lengthy doctor visits that can last an hour, but also linking patients with a “Health coach” who can help seniors manage their care.

The goal, officials at Iora Primary Care say, is to spend ample time with patients so the doctors can get to know their history and them as a person.

Anibal Martinez, MD, the Aurora practice’s medical director, said the issue at many practices around the country is doctors’ schedule won’t allow that, even when it’s something important like reviewing records from a specialist.

“The key is to sit down and go over those records, and have time to do that,” he said. “And most doctors don’t have time to do that.”

The clinic at East Mississippi Avenue and South Sable Boulevard resembles the urgent care and stand-alone emergency rooms that have sprouted across Aurora and other suburbs in recent years, but officials here stress that Iora is different.

For one, the vast majority of their clients are there on an appointment basis, not the sort of walk-in medical needs that urgent care facilities and stand-alone ERs offer.

And more importantly, Martinez said, they don’t use the pay-for-service model so common on other providers. Instead, it’s based on a monthly fee that is covered by insurance and allows as many visits a month as a patient needs. Beyond the fee there are varying co-pays based on plans, though some plans have no co-pay, he said.

Melissa Mendez, community development leader at the Aurora clinic, said the clinic’s patients are older than 65 and have Medicare, Medicare Advantage or a Medicare supplement.

Martinez said by having those longer appointments, and having the health coach in the room, the staff can stay on top of the sorts of medical issues — such as high blood pressure or diabetes — that could lead to more-serious procedures.

“Especially the Medicare population, 65 and older, they are at higher risk for getting sick and as the years go by we are able to reduce the hospitalization rate,” he said.

According to AARP, reducing those hospitalization rates can be crucial for seniors because the likelihood that they are able to return home after a hospital visit is far lower than it is for the rest of the population.

“Seniors suffer a 23 percent risk of being unable to return home or requiring nursing home placement from even short hospitalizations,” according to AARP.

And with the population over 50 expected to balloon to 132 million by 2030, the group estimates said it’s crucial to find solutions now that cut back on those hospitalization rates.