Navigating the world of healthcare is often fraught with confusion and expense of both money and time. Such challenges create barriers, and many do not access needed services until major problems occur. Dr. J. Kyle Turnbo, who opened a private practice in 2000, saw these trends first-hand and was troubled.
“There’s obviously been a dramatic shift in healthcare,” he says, “and those changes have not been good for employers who provide insurance coverage, those who utilize healthcare, or those who provide it. Insurance costs have risen along with deductibles, and the average family has difficulty accessing care due to expense. We found that flew in the face of what we wanted to do, which was simply to take care of people.”
Dr. Turnbo decided to take a step back, reevaluating his approach as a provider. “I knew there was a better way to do this,” he says. “I started thinking about what it was like a hundred years ago, what it means to take care of people first, and how those barriers could be lifted.”
Dr. Turnbo’s then-developing concept, which he named HealthWorks Medical, came to life at James Marine, where an onsite clinic provided occupational medical services and healthcare for their employees.
Through HealthWorks Medical, a reasonable flat fee per month, per employee or covered life, allowed open access to needed healthcare through Dr. Turnbo and his staff of multiple practitioners with a wide variety of experience and expertise.
“In our research, we found out that about 90% of patients did not have a primary care physician. Employers providing the benefit to employees and their families allowed them to have direct access to practitioners, providing cost savings to both the employee and the employer. A person needs health insurance, especially to cover potential catastrophic events, but it’s much easier to have insurance and pair it with HealthWorks Medical services. We’re proud that our small business partners have the ability to provide a healthcare package that is not cost prohibitive, and their employees no longer have barriers to access. It is great for us as well,” adds Dr. Turnbo, “We no longer have to worry about insurance company codes, and I can focus on what’s best for each patient.”
The success of the program at James Marine expanded to other companies such as Paducah Bank and Briggs & Stratton in Murray. From one clinic at James Marine, HealthWorks Medical expanded to four clinics in the West Kentucky region. They expanded their occupational medicine and wellness divisions and added a division in safety engineering and training. HealthWorks Medical offers their services to companies and businesses both large and small.
“Some of the greatest successes came in catching problems early,” says Dr. Turnbo. “One of the most costly aspects of healthcare is chronic diseases. If a person doesn’t access care, however, they may not know they are headed toward major issues until it is catastrophic.”
HealthWorks Medical can provide education and support on any topic identified as a wellness need that a company presents. Examples include identifying problems such as pre-diabetic indicators early, high blood pressure, or chronic stress. Jennie Morehead, Executive Director of Safety and Wellness at HealthWorks Medical has seen the success first hand. “We’ve seen patients discover issues early and then learn to make the necessary changes before the problem grew. We just had about 8 men at a company who celebrated being smoke and tobacco free for several years. We’ve had groups of people lose tons of weight. We are so proud of them all!” The staff makes themselves available for ongoing support and education, even going grocery shopping with some to provide education on dietary needs. “We can show them that they don’t have to eat tree bark to eat healthy,” laughs Jennie.
HealthWorks Medical also tracks potential healthcare savings of early detection and lifestyle changes. 72% of dollars spent on healthcare services is for the treatment of disease and illness that could have been prevented, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“A lot of wellness programs for companies consist of employees filling out a form and then being handed a sheet of information,” explains Jennie. “We want to be more involved than that. Our wellness staff gets to know the people. Wellness is not a touchy-feely, pie-in-the-sky kind of idea. Every month, we are on-site doing something. It’s not uncommon to have our folks in steel-toed boots and hardhats out on a boat asking everyone how they are doing. The next day, they may be in a bank doing a “Biggest Loser” program. And all employees have access to our coaches.”
Dr. Turnbo adds, “What makes HealthWorks Medical different is the follow up and management of the chronic diseases identified through the wellness program. Our practitioners evaluate and treat the diagnosis with routine follow ups and annual physical with lab work included.”
“These are simple, getting-back-to-basics concepts,” adds Dr. Turnbo. “Our whole goal is to be a partner to service every need a patient might have in healthcare, from wellness to prevention to acute care. And we do that with reasonable, effective solutions. It goes back to our original goal of simply taking care of people, and we are seeing success in doing that. I think this concept will go beyond this market, and it will have started right here in Paducah.”