Advocate Aurora, Oak Street partner on Medicare-focused health center

Advocate Aurora Health is teaming up with Chicago-based Oak Street Health to open a primary care center in Elgin focused on Medicare patients, the two agencies announced Tuesday.

The new center, at 822 Summit St., will operate under a co-branded name and will be staffed by 40 to 50 people, including six physicians. Projected to open in April, the facility will cater to the more than 25,000 Medicare-eligible people in Elgin and the surrounding area, officials said.

A focus on Medicare patients has been the core of Oak Street Health's practice, which operates 40 primary care centers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Locally, the agency operates 15 primary care centers in Chicago, three in Joliet and one in Waukegan.

Oak Street Health CEO and co-founder Mike Pykosz said the Elgin center will operate like other Oak Street facilities, which provide amenities for an aging population such as van transportation to and from office visits, increased time with doctors and a dedicated team of specialists. The average visit is twice as long as traditional care, Pykosz said, and patients are seen three times more often than average, he added.

"By investing more time up front with patients, we are able to keep them healthy and reduce hospitalization," Pykosz said.

In addition, the centers - which are located in retail areas for easier access - have large community rooms where health and wellness events are held.

"It has a neighborhood feeling and is not intimidating like going to a doctor's office," Pykosz said.

Scott Powder, Advocate Aurora's chief strategy officer, said the two agencies have been discussing a partnership for a while. Powder said the mission and values that Oak Street Health practice fit well with Advocate's strategies.

"What we love about Oak Street is that they've built a care model from the ground up designed to provide the best experience for this particular population," Powder said. "This is really a chance to partner with Oak Street in this kind of care model that's aligned with our purpose, how to help people live well."

Advocate Aurora, created after the 2018 merger of Downers Grove-based Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, operates a network of 500 health care facilities, including 27 hospitals, in Illinois and Wisconsin. Pykosz said the partnership gives Oak Street the ability to tap into Advocate's network of health resources.

"We'll have enhanced coordination with all the different resources Advocate can bring, whether it's advanced specialists, ancillary services or hospitals," he said. "There's a lot of different pieces we can bring together."

That benefit will be expanding to Oak Street's other locations as the Elgin facility gets under way, Pykosz said, and the two organizations will be looking at other ways they can partner to improve health care.

"We're a lot more worried about what is going to keep a patient healthy and focusing on how do we increase overall well-being and manage chronic illnesses and improve the quality of life of our own patients, as opposed to 'what it reimbursable in a service fee world,'" Pykosz said.

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