(l to r): Drs. Chris Chen, James Chen, and Gordon Chen hold up the hand sign for the University of Miami - their alma mater and beneficiary of the Chen Family Endowed Chair to Advance Primary Care and Health Equity Research.
Caring for those in need
Florida-based ChenMed's model of medicine could transform the U.S. health care system
When the Chen Family Endowed Chair to Advance Primary Care and Health Equity Research was established at the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine this summer, it was more than a reflection of the members of the Chen family who are alumni of the school.
The $3 million donation reflected a long-standing commitment to Florida and a broader passion for serving others and improving the health of communities in need. University of Miami President Julio Frenk said the partnership would propel the “pursuit of health equity.”
It wasn’t until patriarch Jen-ling “James” Chen was diagnosed with cancer in 2003 and given only two months to live that this family of physicians came to a realization. The U.S. health care system was rife with disparities and failings. The fragmented delivery model didn’t connect doctors or caregivers and it lacked sympathy for patients.
"Our father’s ordeal made us acutely aware of what the health care system felt like for patients and their families," says Chris Chen, the CEO of ChenMed. "Asking, ‘What would we want as a patient?’ drives many of our decisions. Our goal at ChenMed is to deliver superior outcomes and a positive experience to underserved patients during the most vulnerable time of their lives."
Care Driven by Empathy
Miraculously, James made a full recovery. The experience fueled the Chen family’s commitment to change the broken health care system. Guided by their Christian faith, the Chens saw James’ recovery as a gift and a sign to make bold changes to the system. The model of care they created in Miami Gardens was a proven solution to help those most in need; one that was needed all across Florida and nationwide.
Today the small family practice James founded in 1985 with his wife Mary has grown to include their sons and daughters-in-law, Dr. Chris Chen, Dr. Gordon Chen, Stephanie Chen, and Dr. Jessica Chen. They lead the nation’s largest family-owned, senior-focused primary care company. Respected nationally by health policy experts as an exemplar for the future, Florida-based ChenMed operates more than 100 medical centers across 15 states. It has created high-wage jobs for more than 5,700 professionals, nearly half of which are in Florida.
Even while expanding rapidly, ChenMed has remained focused on high-touch, high-value, accessible health care for vulnerable populations. ChenMed’s centers operate in areas with high area deprivation and social vulnerability index scores, often “medical deserts.” Many patients live below the poverty line.
In addition, ChenMed’s patients suffer from an average of five major chronic conditions. That is why its doctors commit more time per visit and have fewer patients than the industry average. In traditional practices, doctors can have more than 2,000 patients and see them infrequently. ChenMed physicians have a limit of 450 patients and, on average, see them monthly.
Transforming Health Care
The practice’s emphasis on preventive care, physician accountability, and taking responsibility for patient outcomes using a pre-paid amount per patient instead of billing for every action, is proven and scalable. It solves the ills of the prevailing fee-for-service system that fails patients, doctors, and payors. ChenMed focuses on patients with Medicare but provides lessons and insights for Medicaid and employer-sponsored insurance policies.
Doctors don’t just help patients with medical care, they address issues such as food security, housing, and transportation. ChenMed recognizes that if doctors don’t acknowledge patients’ personal situations, they will never really be able to help them. This may mean helping a patient get non-medical services such as transportation or access to healthy food.
The model is working. The hospital admission rate for patients in ChenMed’s care is up to 50% lower than the national average. Its patients have 33% fewer ER visits and 28% lower costs per year than average Medicare patients. When patients stay with ChenMed longer, they have 22% lower incidence of stroke and have a 41% increase in preventative medicine usage.
ChenMed’s commitment to serving others also results in happy employees. The company has been certified a “Great Place to Work®” by the Great Place to Work Institute and honored as the only primary care medical practice on the IDG Insider Pro and Computerworld “Best Place to Work in IT” list. It is the highest rated South Florida company on Newsweek’s “Most Loved Workplaces” list and was named to Fortune’s “Change the World” list. ChenMed has earned recognition from the White House, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.K. National Health System. Medical Economics named ChenMed, “Best Primary Care System in the U.S.”
These results are not by accident. The company’s corporate values — “Love, Accountability and Passion” — reflect a clear purpose that penetrates every level of the organization.
“It is built into the DNA of how we interact with our patients,” Chris Chen says. “The results are not simply better. They are better for the people who need them most.”
“Our goal is to focus on a holistic approach to overall health, not emergency care.” — Chris Chen, MD, Chief Executive Officer
ChenMed is a privately-held medical, management and technology company that is transforming health care by delivering high-touch and personalized primary care to Medicare-eligible seniors in underserved communities through more than 100 primary care centers across 15 states. For more information, visit ChenMed.com