Bob Trinh says the telephone calls don’t stop. They come in from across the country, usually from other medical providers or those intertwined in the medical community — all wanting to learn about The Villages Health’s unique operation. “I get that every day,” Trinh said of inquisitive callers. As CEO of The Villages Health, he is directing a community-based, patient-centered health care system that is known for its innovation, quality, passion and service, intentionally mirroring some of The Villages’ core values. Despite admiring eyes, Trinh and Dr. Jeff Lowenkron, TVH’s chief medical officer, keep the focus on what matters more than accolades or outside inquiries — their relationship with their patients.
“We think it’s important for them to have a good experience,” Lowenkron said.
In fact, he asks his medical team to ponder — what’s our product?
“They’re actually buying the relationship,” Lowenkron said of patients wanting a doctor and medical staff they can connect with, spend quality time with and trust.
Medical degrees and certifications don’t ensure you get outstanding care, but the experience you receive does, Lowenkron said.
Patients of TVH have come to expect a text message after exiting one of the seven primary care centers or two specialty care centers. It asks them to rate the day’s appointment on a scale of 1-10. Patients who reply with a 9 or 10, the highest favorable rating, are known as “promoters.” Trinh said TVH has a 96% Net Promoter score from its 58,000 patients.
Those rare ratings that score 8 or below generate a call to the patient asking what they can do better, but never asking them to change their score.
Lowenkron said the feedback helps them learn, grow and evolve into the future.
“We know with our care model that patients do better with it,” he said.
It certainly is keeping more patients out of the hospital compared to national figures. TVH patients are admitted to the hospital at a rate of only 150 per every 1,000, well below the per capita of other Medicare Advantage patients across the country, which is 249 admitted for every 1,000 patients, Trinh said. It is even better when compared to those on traditional Medicare, which averages 370 hospitalizations for every 1,000.
All but one of TVH’s care centers operate in the Sumter County portion of The Villages, the nation’s fastest-growing county over the last decade, according to census figures. As more people are drawn to The Villages, Trinh must plan ahead on how to care for the new neighbors.
“As the community grows, we will open new care centers,” he said. “We have a wonderful working relationship with The Villages development team. We can put (the next care center) in the right location that serves the patient the best.”
Between 2020 and 2021, TVH welcomed 5,000 new patients, Trinh said.
To accommodate current and future patients, new-patient paperwork is being replaced by the opportunity to fill out the information online, providing more convenience for patients and eliminating the time it takes staff to process the paperwork.
The creation nearly 10 years ago of TVH’s model of providing primary care that revolves around the patient was just the start of innovative ideas.
Recently, TVH deployed an “encounter notification” system, which alerts staff if one of their patients enters the hospital emergency department. The notification system is completely voluntarily on the patient’s part, but 98% of those asked took the step to opt in so their primary care physician could be notified.
“The only way to intervene early is to know early,” Lowenkron said of having care directed by a primary care team that knows the patient.
A grant is funding more innovation, with TVH hiring two paramedics for a program in which they check on at-risk patients at home. Lowenkron said one serves the north and the other is on the south side of The Villages, with preliminary tracking outcomes showing that the program is successful.
TVH recently created a Tandem and Collaborative Care program for full-risk Medicare Advantage patients. Lowenkron said its holistic approach is generating improvement for patients dealing with anxiety, depression and insomnia. The blending with behavioral health is helping primary care physicians become more comfortable with treating these full-risk patients, while getting that care from their primary physician helps remove the stigma that mental health matters may carry.
“For the patient, they realize there is more than one person in my corner,” Lowenkron said.
Your Favorite Doctor
If there is a challenge facing TVH, it is finding new members of their medical and support teams in a national health care scene that is experiencing a shortage of doctors and other medical professionals.
“We meet every week on this,” Trinh said of recruiting efforts.
The effort is constant, including TVH staff recently attending the American College of Physicians internal medicine conference in Chicago. Lowenkron said the vast majority of physicians have been trained to work in hospital settings, making primary care physician recruiting challenging.
“The best person to deal with is someone who deals with multiple conditions,” Lowenkron said of primary care. “We’re stepping away from treating one thing at a time.”
Trinh acknowledges that doctors are subjected to constant recruiting efforts from countless practices, so TVH efforts prioritize the unique opportunity to focus on the patient. He believes residents can help TVH stand out in the sea of choices.
Trinh said doctors might be more open to hearing about The Villages if the introduction came from a former patient. He encourages residents to email email@example.com with suggestions of favorite doctors from their last residence who would fit into TVH’s model of care.
Patient Support Center
In a move to enhance service and hospitality, The Villages Health renamed its first point of contact for patients. The practice’s call center is now the Patient Support Center.
“It’s about serving our patients and serving their needs,” said LaDonna Collinsworth, director of shared services.
The 30 to 40 voices on the line at 844-TVH-WELL (884-9355) are trained extensively to get the patient’s care moving in the right direction, she said. Whether a new or established patient, those in the Patient Support Center will make sure that the patient’s communication with the medical team is directed to the right person and the patient’s needs are addressed.
The Patient Support Center, available 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, can assist patients with appointment scheduling, communicating with the clinical team, submitting requests for prescription refills and referrals, providing guidance on testing and vaccine scheduling, helping with the online patient portal and more.
“This is all done in a professional manner, providing exceptional service and hospitality,” Collinsworth said.
Senior managing Editor Curt Hills can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5287, or firstname.lastname@example.org.