Jack with his dad
My parents are approaching 80 years old. For the most part they’re healthy, but they’re facing a series of normal changes as they advance through their journey of life. Dad just got his first set of hearing aids and had cataract surgery so he can keep up his love of hiking and skiing. Mom recently had a hip replacement so she can continue her lifelong passion of riding horses.
Mom and Dad aren’t alone. There are more than 50 million Americans over 65, and that number is on track to grow to more than 90 million by 2060. People over 65 face changes in function and mobility, and often develop multiple chronic conditions — all of which result in an increased need for high-quality healthcare and personalized support from clinicians who understand this distinctive phase of life and who know them as human beings.
Unfortunately, when older adults do seek care, they usually find a healthcare system that is fragmented, uncoordinated and organized around organs and diseases rather than people. They end up with multiple doctors who see the parts, but not the whole, and who see “averages” instead of “individuals.” They encounter a system that is incentivized to “do more” and is obsessed with short, periodic and reactive visits focused on “fixing problems” rather than preventing them. They end up trying to navigate this maze on their own, without a real champion to guide them and stay with them over time.
As I talk with and listen to older adults, I often hear the same stories. Patricia, a 71-year-old living in California, recently summed it up like this: “Every time my doctor walks through the door it’s like he has to get to know me all over again…” When I talk with physicians and other care professionals, they, too, are frustrated by this model of care — and burned out by it. This isn’t the kind of care they want to provide to their patients, and it certainly isn’t why they were called to heal.
This broken system exacerbates another problem older adults are facing: feeling invisible and less valued. Today, older people are often marginalized by a culture with a strong bias against aging, heard in popular phrases like: “out with the old, in with the new” and “age before beauty” — as if the two can’t co-exist.
My wife Alicia’s parents are also confronting healthcare challenges that come with aging. When Alicia’s mom was hospitalized on the other side of the country, I watched as she and her two siblings struggled to coordinate their activities, to get information on their mom, to understand what was happening and to figure out what they needed to do to help her. This is an experience shared by families and caregivers across the country who want to help their loved ones, yet do not have a place to do so in the current system.
Something needs to change. Older adults deserve better. Caregivers deserve better. Care professionals deserve better. The country deserves better.
For more than a year, we’ve been listening to hundreds of older adults (65+) and caregivers from around the country. We’ve heard their stories about aging, heard their frustrations with the healthcare system, heard about their needs and values. And we’ve used these insights to reinvent primary care for them. Today, we’re excited to introduce ourselves to you.
We’re “Patina,” a new model of primary care for adults 65+. Our name alludes to the authentic beauty that emerges over time through the natural process of aging. Think of the gorgeous blue-green color of copper roofs or bronze statues in older cities across the globe — a beauty that can only be created with time. For us, the name captures the meaning and poetry embedded in our mission to “profoundly improve the aging and healthcare experience for older adults.”
We are building the type of care experience we want for our parents. It starts with listening and building trusted relationships with every person we serve. By taking the time to truly understand someone’s story, their values, preferences, goals and objectives, we can help them make informed decisions and get the care and support they need.
We give every person a dedicated “full stack” care team that includes a primary care clinician and their own health champion, who is their single point of contact. This team can bring in other Patina experts like nurses, behavioral health experts, pharmacists, geriatricians and other specialists so we can take care of people comprehensively. We do the legwork to make sure that the rest of the healthcare system works for people by coordinating care and ensuring that information flows where it should.
Our care model also recognizes that older adults often have loved ones or caregivers, like Alicia and her siblings, who want to do their part to help. With the patient’s permission, we mobilize and empower these important stakeholders and help them delineate priorities, tasks and activities that they can do to help their loved one achieve their goals and live their fullest lives.
Starting from scratch has its advantages. For Patina, it has allowed us to rethink everything about the problems we want to solve, beginning with founding principles. My great grandfather, Dr. John E. (“Doc”) Stoddard was a primary care doctor who made house calls by horse and buggy (or horse and sleigh during the New England winters). While in the home, he built deep, trusted relationships with his patients and got to know them as individuals.
We’re building Patina starting from the perspective of older adults and moving backwards from there. We asked people directly where they want to be when they’re sick or not feeling well. The answer, overwhelmingly, is “in my home.” In fact, the desire for “independence at home” is a common refrain we’ve heard from older adults throughout our research.
So, we’re bypassing the traditional clinic-based model altogether and are delivering our service through a modern, in-home and virtual experience. This hybrid model allows for us to be “on demand” while having “eyes on” and “hands on” a patient when necessary. Being in the home allows people to be human beings first and patients second. It also allows the Patina care team to get to know people in the context of their “real” environment, the same way my great grandfather used to do it. Not only does this approach create convenience, but it also makes us more scalable and more accessible to people in the markets we serve, which helps to bridge glaring access gaps and other health disparities.
We started planning for a home-based and virtual primary care business before the pandemic began. At the time, people we spoke with were intrigued but somewhat unsure when this future would arrive. Fast forward to the present, and the pandemic has triggered a seismic shift in both perspective and timeline. Today, the idea of a hybrid care experience is no longer just an interesting possibility, but rather an expectation for the future of high-value, accessible healthcare in this country. This is the future of healthcare in America.
We think the traditional “production model” of primary care — getting paid for how much you do — sets up the wrong incentives. That’s why we’ve created a business model that allows us to be paid for keeping people healthy and helping them get the care they need in the right setting. This aligns our incentives with the people we serve. Our “value-based” payment model requires different workflows, different processes, different technology and, perhaps most importantly, a different culture.
We’ve gathered a team of extraordinary people who are committed to our unique mission and to delivering the kind of care experience that older adults deserve. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by some of the brightest minds in aging, medicine, behavioral health, social determinants of health, technology, analytics and more. We’re also privileged to have some of the industry’s most respected and insightful advisors, partners and investors who believe in our vision and are helping to make it real.
What Patina is building is not healthcare for a moment; it’s healthcare for a movement, a movement designed to change expectations and change behaviors on a national scale. When we’re successful, every person will have an opportunity to age with dignity; to be seen, respected and supported; and to feel empowered to live this journey called life to the fullest.
Join us. www.patinahealth.com
By John C (“Jack”) Stoddard, CEO of Patina – October 26, 2021