Primary Care Village MD

Dr. Robert Hughes stands with the CT scanner at Primary Care Medical Center Wednesday morning in Murray. Hughes said this is one component that the main flagship practice of the VillageMD program with which Primary Care is now associated does not have in Houston, Texas.

MURRAY —Late Tuesday afternoon, Murray’s Primary Care Medical Center closed a bit earlier for the day than usual.

It was for a company-wide meeting. Understandably, this maybe brought some uncertainty for PCMC personnel; company-wide meetings involving brass speaking in front of the entire group usually do.

However, PCMC co-founder Dr. Robert Hughes made sure to let everyone know it was not one of those meetings where negatives would be covered. He had spread the word that it as a “happy meeting.”

And from the applause of everyone in the large waiting room of the clinic on Murray’s south side, that was the prevailing feeling when all was said and done. All they had heard was that PCMC was taking a partial partnership with national value-based health care group VillageMD to a new level – or as Hughes said just before the meeting, “we’re going all in.”

“You’ve got to have resources,” Hughes said of the full partnership with VillageMD, which has up until now had a few analytics representatives on site, as well as a fully-functioning pharmacy. Now more resources are on the way, as VillageMD CEO Tim Barry promised during the meeting. 

“We’re going to be investing tens of millions of dollars into this market so we can grow and grow and so we can become the largest and most successful primary care group, and I want it to be the most successful group in the country,” Barry said, applauding PCMC for things like having the clinic open seven days a week, data analytics and specialized programs to deal with chronic diseases, such as COPD. 

“We think what you all have done has been amazing, and this is now an opportunity for each and every one of us to be part of it. This is going to be exciting.”

VillageMD bases its philosophy on the concept of value-based health care, which, in a nutshell, means enacting ways of patients being able to find care at a lower cost, the company said. This is a major issue nationwide, especially with skyrocketing insurance premiums and drug costs. Hughes and Barry both emphasized finding ways to make health care not only more affordable, but more efficient. 

“That is what VillageMD does, and in the urban markets of Houston, they’ve shown savings in the Medicare world of anywhere from 20 to 40 percent. We’re not talking about taking care of these patients for more expense, we’re talking about bending that cost curve, but doing it in a better way,” Hughes said, noting that making PCMC an electronically digital office 20 years ago predated some of the medical world’s most well-known places. “We were doing that before the Mayo Clinic was doing it.

“We didn’t do that for the sake of wanting to be first. We did it so other places would be doing it along with us. Now, it’s mandatory. We’ve got a social worker here in the office, and again, we’re doing all of these things so we can take care of our people better.”

VillageMD has now expanded to about 2,600 providers throughout the nation. Co-founder Dr. Clive Fields practices in the Houston, Texas area. Having been raised in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, a small town near the Canadian border, Barry said he has a strong desire to see this become effective in rural areas, such as far-western Kentucky. 

Hughes said Michael Pape of Hopkinsville, who was the field representative for longtime Kentucky Congressman Ed Whitfield until he retired a few years ago, is now working with VillageMD to recruit providers in the westernmost part of the commonwealth. 

“He signed up nine new providers last week (in Lyon and Livingston counties) and we’ve got 12 to 15 in the Hopkinsville area. We’ve also got a provider now in Carlisle County,” said Hughes, a native of Prestonsburg in the far-eastern part of Kentucky. “Our goal is to take this all the way to Prestonsburg and beyond, but we’re going to work closely with VillageMD (which is headquartered in Chicago). If Houston is doing something, we copy it. If we find that what they did works best, we bring it back here to Murray, Kentucky.

“We won a national award for our COPD program (where patients are monitored at home and are given a rescue pack of drugs. The results, Hughes said, is that most of those patients are handling their own issues without much intervention at PCMC or a hospital), but I’ll be the first to tell you, we didn’t create it. Houston did.”

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