Wauwatosa-based medical practice ADVENThas opened four new locations since April, continuing to grow its network of ENT clinics amid the disruption of COVID-19.
Three of the new sites are in the Chicago area, including a clinic in The Loop, Oak Park and Northbrook.
ADVENT, which was founded in 2004 as an independent medical practice in Wauwatosa, entered the Illinois market for the first time last year when it opened a clinic in Vernon Hills.
ADVENT also extended its reach to the Fox Valley when it opened a new Appleton clinic in September.
ADVENT president Dr. Madan Kandula, who co-founded the medical practice with his wife, audiologist Dr. Gwen Kandula, said the new locations reflect where there has been demand from patients.
“We, for a long time, have been getting folks in from far away to come and see us, and the areas that tend to have the biggest draw (outside of Milwaukee) have been Chicago and Chicagoland and the Fox Valley,” Madan Kandula said. “So, just seeing where patients were willing to come from to see us, it made it very obvious as to OK, maybe we can get closer to where they are."
In total, ADVENT has grown from two Milwaukee-area locations in 2017 to 10 clinics in Wisconsin and Illinois as of last month.
ADVENT focuses on addressing breathing-related issues, including treatments for sinus infections, snoring and allergies. A draw for many of its patients is being able to access health care at a smaller, one-stop location, as opposed to a larger hospital-based complex, Kandula said.
“For whatever reason, in the traditional health care model, those issues that are all interrelated have been sort of been separated, and actually separated after the different specialties, which doesn’t make any sense,” Kandula said. “…What we are about is trying to deliver solutions for patients and almost all the time we can do that in the office these days. So it’s office-based procedures to address issues in these areas.”
ADVENT transitioned to telemedicine services in the spring when its clinics closed their doors as a COVID precautionary measure and to conserve personal protective equipment. Patients have since returned to in-person visits, Kandula said.
"All of our locations in Wisconsin and Illinois are doing really well at this point," he said. "... Coming through this pandemic, I think people have realized how important health is and how unimportant so many other things are. And for us, for the area that we treat, you can either breathe or you can't, and if you can't your life is hindered. So I think our patients recognize how important breathing is and how important proper, restful sleep is."
While planning was underway for most of its new clinic locations prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kandula said ADVENT made the decision to move forward with The Loop location in the midst of the health crisis, and ultimately opened last month.
“I felt very strongly way back when that there was going to be a pathway forward,” he said. “... Back in March and April it was a significant shock to our system from a revenue standpoint (and other) uncertainties, but I think it was purposeful in saying, ‘Hey, we can do this,’ and hopeful in saying, ‘This is going to end at some point and when it does we need to be prepared to treat all the patients that are out there that need our help.’”
Outside of COVID-related disruptions, opening a location in the heart of downtown Chicago came with several setbacks, including navigating civil unrest-related shutdowns throughout the summer, and later a boiler leak in the building, which damaged ADVENT’s new office and its medical equipment the day before it was scheduled to open.
“If this was our first or second location … I don’t know that we would have made it through because you don’t have the resilience, you don’t have anything to fall back on. And time was ticking,” Kandula said. “… For us an organization, I know we are very capable but for me on the back end, coming through this, I’d say what I knew in my heart I know now with my eyes and ears because I’ve seen it firsthand with how do we respond to a challenge.”
Despite those hurdles, Kandula said, the new clinic is important to ADVENT’s overall Illinois expansion, with its iconic location now serving as a flagship for the Chicago-area ADVENT network. It's expected to become its busiest location in the state, Kandula said.
He said ADVENT is still finalizing its growth plans but expects to open a similar number of new clinics in 2021 as it did this year.