By Dawn Marie Yankeelov
Affordable employer health-care benefits remain on many employees’ wish lists for 2021. On the other side of the coin, employers are looking to save money on health claims and have healthier employees.
An expanding direct primary care (DPC) model by BluMine Health understands just how significant the return on investment can be for both employees and employers.
Louisville-based BluMine Health began operating six years ago as Alternative Health Solutions (AHS), offering companies a health and wellness model through onsite clinics or shared-site care centers. The company was formed with the idea that access is the key to unlocking better numbers for both employees and employers, said Michael Dees, who founded AHS with a group of angel investors in the region.
In January 2019, the company entered into a joint venture with Paducah-based HealthWorks Medical to form BluMine Health. HealthWorks, founded by Dr. J. Kyle Turnbo in 2007, provides a similar DPC health-care model, coupled with wellness, occupational and safety services for employers in clinics in Paducah and Murray. The company also has clinics in Union City, Tenn., and New Orleans.
BluMine, which now has 55 employees, offers primary care under a lead nurse practitioner with personalized service at 11 primary care clinics (eight shared sites and three on-site facilities for clients) in the region thus far, and growth continues with an eye on the contiguous states.
Pegasus Packaging in Shelbyville swears by the BluMine model, especially because there is no added cost to employees. The company has 90 employees in Shelbyville as well as personnel at other locations in the region who also access BluMine services.
“This is a perk. We do offer Humana insurance, but this allows for families to access primary care where they live and work,” said Donna Meador, HR manager and chief healthy-at-work officer for Pegasus.
“It’s also extremely convenient for employment drug screenings, for emergency care (occupational work injury services) or to map out a plan to get into shape for employees,” added Meador, a registered nurse who previously served as vice president of clinical services for Jewish Hospital Shelbyville and as director of quality, patient safety and health professions for the Kentucky Hospital Association.
Focus on convenience
One of the first BluMine clients was the City of Jeffersonville, Ind. Mayor Mike Moore said the program covers 412 employees, and for many BluMine is within walking distance.
“It’s almost like having a small-town doctor’s office at your beck and call,” Moore said. “This kind of care has almost been left behind in our world. It’s the service and the convenience that has been huge for this city.”
Jeffersonville’s main offices are headquartered in an old quartermaster depot, and BluMine has had a primary care center directly behind city hall for five years.
“If you are trying to not only recruit but retain good workers in a competitive workplace, offering this is one of the best kind of perks,” Moore said. “We are definitely using BluMine Health as a tool for quality care.”
For the past 10 to 12 years, insurance carriers like United, Humana and Aetna all had wellness programs, but they had no control over employee reactions and did not reach their goals, according to BluMine Business Development Consultant Danny McMahan, who leads the company’s sales.
“We know that a third of employees never engage in primary care and show no change in proactive medical activity under these type of programs,” McMahan said. “We are more personalized than other clinics. For example, our maximum number of appointments is around 24 a day versus 50 to 60 appointments for others.”
BluMine believes its approach solves that problem. It has seen its staff quadruple since mid-2019.
In 2020, BluMine reached 33 clients serving 19,000 members, which includes employees and their families. Employers that participate include those who self-insure and some that added this medical benefit to be more competitive.
For those with 100 employees or more, a self-insured model is most warranted. For smaller companies with under 100 employees, BluMine is a recruitment and retention tool.
“Costs are lower for the employer on claims,” Dees said, explaining that employers have a fixed fee per month per employee family.
Partnership with Baptist Health
In March 2019, the big opportunity came to partner with Baptist Healthcare Systems and push the care delivery model even further.
“Baptist is the largest health care provider in the state. We thought BluMine could strengthen their position. We created a ‘white glove access’ approach to acute specialties within 48 hours of your visit to BluMine for chronic care needs,” Dees said.
Baptist Health System is now the referral partner of choice for BluMine Health. With the strategic alliance with Baptist Health, BluMine patients can be offered additional services such as specialty care, hospital care, diagnostics and physical therapy. Employees and their family members benefit from easy access to care, improved patient satisfaction and a referral strategy, Dees points out.
“Baptist Health’s philosophy of ‘treat-you-like-family’ care fits hand-in-glove with BluMine Health’s emphasis on white-glove treatment for its patients,” said Dr. Jody Prather, Baptist Health’s chief strategy officer. “Our association with BluMine Health provides an integrated care strategy focused on achieving the best health outcomes for patients.”
Baptist Health has call center capabilities focused on streamlining the referral process for BluMine Health patients. Baptist does not put up the funds for the buildings in the current model, and BluMine does not pass the clinical infrastructure cost onto the employer. They co-brand under Baptist Health Direct Employer Strategies Delivered by BluMine Health—so not a bricks-and-mortar model but a retail one.
Prather said the move gives Baptist Health an opportunity to be integrated with employers, work together on future initiatives to improve patient care quality, and lower costs for employers and their employees who choose Baptist Health for their care.
A focus on prevention
BluMine Health has continued to see growth during COVID-19 by offering and promoting telehealth to its clients, as well as following up on people who skip their annual exams.
“We aren’t doing COVID-19 testing in-house, but we have stayed open the entire time as well as offering telehealth,” said Julie Russell Miller, director of sales and marketing. “We are simply more hands-on and proactive with our patients. We don’t want chronic conditions to go undiagnosed or untreated. We can flag no refills, identify high-risk individuals in our system, and target those that may relapse into chronic conditions during the pandemic.”
Because of their relationship with Baptist Health, BluMine can get people in for COVID-19 screenings quickly. On-site services include flu shots and biometric screenings. BluMine’s integrated care model offers wellness programs that include annual physicals, annual hearing tests, blood sugar screenings, weight loss and body composition optimization, and cancer screenings.
There is also integration of data for benchmarking and strategic planning for clients through SpringBuk data metrics technology and RX advocacy solutions, like counseling on the top drug for a diagnosis by cost and frequency. All savings are identified, tracked and reported to the client for use in the bottom-line data of the return on investment, and to help shape the client’s 12-month health care planning.
“This model is very convenient for families and enhances workplace productivity,” said Ed Glasscock, a key Louisville investor alongside seven other angel investors, including majority investor Steve Langford. “It’s going to grow significantly in the next few years and in different communities tied into hospitals. These are win-win situations and this is a strong trend.”