Connie Randjelovic, a patient at JenCare’s East Broad Street clinic,talks with Dr. Akber Ahmad.Photo by Jay Paul.
For about five months, Connie Randjelovic didn't have a primary care physician. The 70-year-old grandmother, who lives alone in the East End, stopped going to the family doctor she had been seeing for the past 30 years because he was available for only four hours twice a week, and when she finally got appointments, she felt neglected and pushed around.
"He never called me at my house for 30 years, and his office people are very rude," says the former Thalhimers department store seamstress who moved to Richmond from Serbia in 1970.
In early October, Randjelovic went to an open house at the JenCare Neighborhood Medical Center, a clinic for seniors that recently opened at 1712 E. Broad St., within walking distance from her home. She says she immediately felt at ease at JenCare. "With every person, the people who draw blood, office people, doctor or nurse or driver — everyone — I love them from the bottom of my heart," she says. Randjelovic now goes to the clinic every three months for checkups on her acid reflux and high cholesterol.
The clinic, which accepts only Medicare patients, focuses on senior preventive medicine to help keep older people from winding up in emergency rooms with advanced illnesses. The practice, owned by the family that runs ChenMed in Miami, operates two primary care offices in Richmond: a 7,144-square-foot space that opened last August in the Glen Lea Shopping Center on Mechanicsville Turnpike and the East Broad branch that opened in October at the former Harper Hardware Co. location between downtown and Church Hill. JenCare chose the locations based on the large Medicare population in those areas.
"There are a lot of shortcomings in the current health care system," says Dr. Chris Chen, the company's chief executive officer, citing a flawed one-size-fits-all approach to health care. "Whether you are an 18-year-old with a cold or an 80-year-old with hypertension, diabetes, a cancer diagnosis and a heart failure, you all go to the same exact doctor and they put you through the same system."
JenCare works to address the specific needs of senior patients, offering courtesy transportation for eligible patients, on-site prescription pickup through a digital robotic pharmacy, dental care and acupuncture as an alternative to narcotics.
"I think the concept is exactly what we've been trying to do in geriatric medicine for a long time," says Dr. Dick Lindsay, former head of geriatrics at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville.
Medicare patients often have multiple illnesses and see a variety of specialists. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, two-thirds of Americans older than 65 and three-fourths of the most rapidly growing segment of the Medicare population, those older than 80, have multiple chronic diseases. "The people who get forgotten the most, typically, are the most complex," Chen says.
There were more than 1 million Medicare beneficiaries in Virginia in 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In the Richmond region, the 65-and-older population will see a boom in the next 18 years, increasing from about 116,000 elderly adults in 2010 to about 232,000 in 2020, according to statistics from the United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg.
JenCare offers specialty medical services on site and stresses frequent communication with specialty physicians outside the JenCare network via phone calls. If a patient is admitted to a hospital or referred to doctors outside of JenCare, those physicians are provided real-time access to the JenCare electronic patient- information system. Doctors outside of the network can enter patients' information into their medical records, and once they hit save, JenCare doctors receive an update on their smartphones.
Chen says that he plans to increase JenCare's presence in and around Richmond. In addition to the two centers here, there are three in the Hampton Roads area.
"I would like to significantly grow," he says. With a growing target population and consumer satisfaction at 93 percent in Virginia as measured by the firm Satmetrix, that seems likely.