Patients who receive in-center dialysis treatment typically spend upwards of 12 hours per week in a dialysis center, which makes it difficult to attend other healthcare appointments. This is problematic because dialysis patients usually have other chronic conditions that require the attention of a primary care provider.
Oak Street Health, a network of value-based primary care centers for adults on Medicare, has teamed up with kidney care management company Interwell Health to address this problem by creating a joint venture called OakWell. Launched on Wednesday, OakWell seeks to provide primary care to end-stage kidney disease patients directly in dialysis centers.
Last month, CVS Health announced its plans to acquire Oak Street. OakWell won’t compete with CVS’ kidney care program, which takes a home-first approach. Instead of focusing on the home, OakWell will operate within existing dialysis centers.
The plan is to start by partnering with dialysis centers in Chicago, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth and begin offering care services in these areas in the third quarter of this year, said David Buchanan, Oak Street’s chief clinical officer, in a recent interview.
Oak Street chose to partner with Interwell because it could combine its primary care services with Interwell’s value-based kidney care expertise, Buchanan shared. He said the two companies aim to act as “one team” across primary care, nephrology and dialysis.
“We envision a better way for primary care providers to truly partner with the dialysis center team and the treating nephrologist — one that is tightly coordinated and creates a seamless, concierge experience for end stage kidney disease patients,” Buchanan declared. “Kidney patients have unique challenges, so bringing more coordinated primary and kidney care into the dialysis center is truly transformational.”
OakWell’s primary care teams will work closely with patients’ nephrologists to deliver them appropriate care while they are in dialysis centers. This will eliminate the barrier of attending separate, additional medical appointments, Buchanan pointed out.
These care teams will focus on managing patients’ chronic conditions, helping them avoid missed dialysis treatments, rescheduling any missed dialysis treatments and coordinating care that needs to take place outside the center. They will also provide behavioral health and renal pharmacy support services, as well as facilitate the coordination of kidney transplants when possible.
If a patient has an urgent need and they aren’t currently in the dialysis center, OakWell will conduct video visits to help patients avoid unnecessary trips to the emergency department.
OakWell will be reimbursed for its services by contracting with insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans, Buchanan said.
A 2021 study from the University of Southern California found that Medicare’s average monthly spending on healthcare services for patients with end stage kidney disease was $14,399 per individual, which is 33 times the amount for enrollees without end stage kidney disease.
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