Value-based care works for seniors and should be considered more broadly across the health care landscape



Dr. Tracy Wakefield

Mon, Mar 18, 2024 (2 a.m.)

This month, leaders from all sectors of the health industry will convene in Las Vegas for a conference called “Rethinking the Healthcare Landscape.” This is an opportune time to have this conversation, as different communities and populations across the country—especially seniors—continue to face challenges from a fragmented health care system. While health care in America has evolved over the years, with many different approaches tried and tested, there is one such approach that deserves to be part of the solution: value-based care. As we’ve seen at CenterWell Senior Primary Care—part of Humana—this comprehensive, patient-focused approach has allowed us to reimagine the health care landscape and produce optimal results for seniors.

It’s no secret that America’s fragmented health care system can be difficult to navigate. Making informed decisions and receiving effective care can be especially complicated for older adults, given their unique health challenges. For example, almost 80% of seniors have two or more chronic conditions, and seniors typically see seven different physicians in four different practices each year.


In addition to these complexities, seniors in Nevada face their own set of challenges. Recent research highlighted by the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health found that Nevada ranked 42nd in the nation on “a variety of health indicators.” Specifically, this report calls out access to care as “a major problem” in Nevada, primarily due to the lack of physicians. The report states that Nevada ranks 45th in America for active physicians per 100,000 residents, and 49th for primary care physicians. Research from Alignment Health also showed concerning results: reported food insecurity rates among seniors in Nevada ranked the highest in the country, with 1 in 9 saying it is their top obstacle to health and wellness. This is in stark comparison to 1 in 100 seniors nationally.

In this environment, it is important that industry leaders take a fresh look at the health care landscape to understand the challenges seniors face. That’s where the value-based care model comes in.

Value-based care is an innovative approach to care delivery that helps prioritize quality over quantity. Rather than being paid for the quantity of services provided, providers are compensated for the quality of care administered. This incentivizes doctors to spend more time with their patients and focus on meeting their unique needs.

We employ this model through our CenterWell Senior Primary Care centers. At these clinics, we specialize in providing care to seniors, whenever they need it. Recently, prospective patients Debra and Thomas were touring a Las Vegas clinic when Debra started to feel ill. The CenterWell team got her a same-day appointment with a physician. In value-based care models, the quality of care comes before all else, which allows patients to receive the comprehensive care they deserve.

CenterWell also puts an emphasis on having doctors, nurses, specialists, social workers and behavioral health professionals work together on care teams for each patient. For example, at our Henderson location, our team recently collaborated with resource coordinators to help an unhoused person find an apartment and a job. Additionally, this team worked to ensure that he always left his appointments with food. It is through this coordinated approach that we ensure patients receive the right care at the right time while addressing all issues that seniors may experience.

While this may sound ambitious, it’s effective: We find the value-based care model leads to better outcomes, plain and simple. Compared with other seniors, our patients spend 50% more time with their primary care physicians. In addition, experience better outcomes, with 30% fewer avoidable hospital admissions and more than a 20% reduction in emergency department visits.

Operating 17 clinics in the Las Vegas area allows us to address the specific needs of seniors in this area. When opening these centers, we keep in mind the issues that most affect the local community. Specifically, CenterWell prioritizes opening centers in areas with limited or no primary care. Our physicians take into account socioeconomic factors that can influence health, like access to nutritious food, transportation or living conditions. Our primary care centers also take on a dual function: as traditional care facilities and as wellness centers where patients and other community members can socialize, exercise, take classes and more.

As health care leaders gather in the coming weeks to rethink the health space, we must focus on initiatives that provide better outcomes for seniors, and value-based care should be among the solutions considered. This will allow us to continue to prioritize seniors—in Nevada and nationally—to ensure that they receive the care they need to live each day healthier than the last.

Dr. Tracy Wakefield is market chief medical officer for CenterWell Senior Primary Care in Nevada.

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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