The COVID-19 pandemic has altered how medical services are delivered, both for urgent and routine needs. With social distancing awareness and limits on access to facilities and walk-in traffic, face-to-face visits with doctors have become less common; however, telehealth solutions have minimized the risk of spreading the virus by giving patients access to doctors online through the use of smartphones, tablets and computers.
In the new year, these rapid medical innovations may now become solidly embedded in healthcare models.
A group of about 30 Arizona physicians launched the Apricus Health Network in September. With a motto of “Care Your Way,” the Apricus model is designed to make health care easier and more affordable for Arizonans by providing flexible and convenient proactive healthcare solutions, “when you need it, delivered how you want it,” according to the website.
Apricus, the Latin word for sunshine, was chosen as the name for the company because the founding physicians believe that a bright and sunny outlook can go a long way in delivering quality care to communities.
Beginning with headquarters in Scottsdale, the Apricus Health Network has currently expanded to 206 locations across Coconino, Yavapai, Maricopa and Pinal counties. It now encompasses 59 provider groups and more than 450 practitioners.
Flagstaff Family Care Clinic joined the Apricus Health Network on Dec. 1. The business has two locations in Flagstaff, on South Yale and North Fourth streets, and a third in Sedona, on Northview Road, which was added to Flagstaff Family Care two years ago.
“The decision to join the Apricus Health Network was an easy one,” said Flagstaff Family Care Clinic founder Dr. Andrew Martin, M.D. “I am really excited about this opportunity for what Apricus is bringing to the table for our patients in Northern Arizona. Providing high quality, low-cost primary care has become more difficult. We have been providing chronic care management to our higher risk patients. With Apricus Health Network, our program will be so much better. We will have patient monitoring devices and patient care navigators. Our telehealth platform will be much better. Together, as a part of Apricus, we will do even better managing chronic conditions and improving health outcomes.”
Physicians say partnering with Apricus will shift the focus from episodic care to a continuous care relationship, which “is especially [beneficial] in rural markets where accessibility to health care can be a challenge,” said Martin.
Cardiologist and electrophysiologist Dr. Kishlay Anand, M.D., is the CEO of Apricus Health and co-founded the network in order “to move away from a traditional care delivery model to one that improves access to quality care using technology as a means to extend and improve the care we can provide,” he explained.
Anand, who is originally from New Delhi, India, has practiced in the Phoenix area for nine years.
Dr. Swaraj Singh, who serves as chief medical information officer for Apricus, helped spearhead the creation of the new health network.
“We wanted to help independent providers transition to payment models based on outcomes and satisfaction, to transition from fee-for-service to value-based service,” Anand explained. “We started in the Valley, but we saw that Northern Arizona had a lot of opportunities for growth. It’s an area where we felt we could bring a lot of value. We have a lot of services we felt would be appropriate for Northern Arizona.”
To begin an Apricus expansion in Flagstaff seemed a natural choice to Anand, who said he has known Dr. Andrew Martin for a few years and has known of the Flagstaff Family Care practice for some time.
Reaching out into the northern part of the state, including into Yavapai County, has been facilitated through the partnership with Flagstaff Family Care, whose Sedona office is open full-time, with a new doctor Erba Carskadden, D.O., starting this month.
Dr. Mary Porvaznik is the primary provider in Sedona. She divides her time between the Sedona and Flagstaff offices. Michele Peters, FNP, works full-time in the Sedona office as well.
An integrated behavioral health service is also provided at FFC, offering counseling to promote well-being with Janine Cwiklinski, M.A., LPC NCC.
Anand says a major Apricus Health Network goal for 2021 includes continuing the creation of an expanded presence in Prescott and Prescott Valley. The new year will also see more mini-clinics of Apricus teams being set up inside pre-existing clinics in Northern Arizona.
“Next year is going to a big growth year for us,” said Anand in December. “Overall, our goal is to be able to provide health care in all of Arizona.”
Vital to the statewide Apricus vision are around-the-clock health support systems such as telehealth, telemedicine and Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM). Anand has championed the importance of technology and the need for 24/7 access to care in the state for more than four years.
“If a patient needs immediate medical help, options are limited under traditional scenarios,” he said. “This inspired our idea to shift to an approach that includes in-person care that is supplemented by telehealth and connected care technologies. In doing so, we’re able to treat patients in minutes, rather than days or weeks.”
The technology used is said to be user-friendly and eliminates software downloads for patients. Doctors say the Apricus healthcare model uses real-time analytics that allow patients access to health records anytime, anywhere, using any device, which gives the entire care team a unified view of a patient’s treatment plan and aids in making data-driven decisions.
Apricus also offers patients free home delivery of medications, many of which are offered at substantial discounts.
Another feature of the Apricus model is the concept of personal care navigators. “All Apricus Health members are assigned their own personal care navigator who can help them understand today’s complex healthcare system, assist them in receiving the right care and get them in touch with the medical professionals who can answer their questions. From there, it’s as simple as scheduling an appointment, which the care navigators can support with primary care or specialist physicians who are part of the network.”
By growing the provider network, the Apricus system is positioned to keep up with population growth and meet increasing healthcare needs in the future. FBN
By Betsey Bruner, FBN