New clinics could cut health care costs in Milwaukee

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm

InformEd Technologies LLC, a Green Bay-based company, recently opened a new kind of medical clinic in Ashwaubenon and plans to open several others in Wisconsin, including at least one in downtown Milwaukee.
The company’s goal is to open 20 clinics in Wisconsin and 20 clinics in Mississippi in the next three to five years, said InformEd founder and president Brenda Broberg.
If its concept of lowering the costs of medical care for the working uninsured and under-insured is embraced by southeastern Wisconsin’s business community, InformEd hopes to open a clinic in downtown Milwaukee by January and several other clinics in the market, Broberg said.
"Our primary focus is to provide health care to the community that is of low cost, accessible and of high quality," Broberg said. "We’re trying to market our services in Wisconsin to the working uninsured. There are a lot of people that are working that do not have health insurance. We try to offer health care to these people at a lower cost than they could get in the traditional health care system … I know in the downtown area, there’s a need for health care."
As Small Business Times reported in a special supplement earlier this month, downtown Milwaukee has a severe shortage of primary care clinics and physicians.
InformEd plans to meet with Milwaukee businesses soon to offer them health care services at a lower cost for their employees.
"We can go to businesses and say we will charge you a lower price than what you are currently paying for (doctor’s) office visits," Broberg said. "We’re looking at going to small businesses and medium-sized businesses and giving them a strategy to reduce health care costs and provide health care to their employees."
In addition to the company’s clinic in Ashwaubenon, a Green Bay suburb, InformEd also has a clinic at a casino in Tunica, Miss., which is for the casino’s employees and their family members only. InformEd plans to open another clinic in Tunica for the general population, Broberg said.
InformEd offers patients and their employers a 30 to 50 percent cost savings for health care services compared with market rates, Broberg said.
The businesses that are InformEd clients are asked to encourage their employees to receive a health assessment at an InformEd clinic. InformEd patients, or their employers, must pay a $48 annual fee to receive services at the clinic for the 30 to 50 percent discount.
The company’s biggest business client for the Ashwaubenon clinic is Green Bay-based Associated Banc-Corp.
Associated Bank turned to InformEd for help after seeing its annual health insurance costs increase by 15 to 20 percent in recent years, said Wendy Franklin, senior compensation and benefits analyst for Associated Bank.
"Our health care costs were rising as fast as everybody else’s, and we realized we should do something," she said. "We’ve used InformEd for one part of our health program, which is the health-risk appraisals."
About 1,600 Associated Bank employees have received health assessments with InformEd.
"Our associates got to spend one hour with a nurse talking about their health, their health risks and setting goals for having a better lifestyle," Franklin said.
Franklin said she has noticed the company’s employees are now taking greater interests in their own health. However, because Associated’s relationship with InformEd began earlier this year, it is too early to document any financial benefits from the relationship, she said.
However, the company expects the investment to pay off in the long run, Franklin said, with healthier and more productive employees, plus less health care utilization and lower health care costs.
One of the ways InformEd is able to offer health care at a lower cost is to provide care by primarily using nurse practitioners under the supervision of a medical doctor. The nurse practitioners are qualified to provide care for 80 to 85 percent of the patients handled by primary care physicians, Broberg said.
The InformEd clinics provide diagnosis and treatment of common illnesses such as a sinus infection and a sore throat. Annual exams, vaccines and prescription refills also are provided.
To help keep costs down, InformEd also uses software that provides Internet data access and up-to-date medical information at the point of care. The paperless process, which includes an electronic patient medical record, is designed to standardize care and help eliminate errors.
"The main difference between us and virtually everyone else is the fact we use technology to improve the diagnostic service," said InformEd chief executive officer Thomas Brosig.
InformEd operates with an informed shared decision-making model, in which the nurse practitioners work together with the patient to improve his or her health. Unlike the traditional hierarchical approach used by other health care providers, InformEd patients work with a nurse practitioner to enter patients’ medical histories into a computer system and devise action plans to improve health.
The InformEd computer program analyzes the patient health data and asks additional questions to determine a patient’s medical needs and recommend treatments or lifestyle changes.
With the partnership approach, patients are better informed about their health and take better care of themselves, Broberg and Brosig said.
That benefits patients by keeping them healthier and benefits their employers by reducing their utilization of health care, thereby reducing costs, Broberg said.
The InformEd computer program also improves the cost efficiencies of the clinic, Broberg said.
"It does it in such a smooth, efficient, paperless manner, the cost of the visit to the clinic is less," Brosig said. "That helps us streamline the clinics operations and offer services at a reduced rate."
The company is ready to expand across Wisconsin with its low-cost medical clinic concept. The company plans to open several new clinics in the Milwaukee area, including the inner city.
"We’d really like to go to the inner city," Broberg said. "They are having problems providing health care in the inner city. This model works well in those areas."
Because of a lack of health care resources, many lower-income Milwaukeeans go to hospital emergency rooms, even for non-emergencies. The costs of caring for those patients are much higher in an emergency room compared with a primary care clinic. Because those patients are uninsured and government reimbursement for their care often fall short of the costs for the care, the costs are passed along to full-paying, insured customers.
Aurora Sinai Medical Center, the only remaining hospital in downtown Milwaukee, lost about $24 million last year because it cares for a high percentage of uninsured patients.
The hospital is trying to cut costs and has stopped accepting patients in its emergency room who do not need emergency care.
"You don’t need to have people going to Aurora Sinai ER (for non-emergencies)," Broberg said. "They can come to our clinic. (That way) you’re taking some of the pressure off the system."
InformEd has experience providing care for lower-income patients in Mississippi and Louisiana. However, the company’s clinics also provide care for patients who do have insurance.
InformEd is a retail model that Broberg compares to Sam’s Club.
"We’re not trying to compete with the current health care system," she said. "We just want to enhance it and make it better."
The rebirth of a cheaper health care concept
By Andrew Weiland, of SBT
Brenda and Kevin Broberg founded InformEd Technologies LLC in 1996 with the corporate mission of providing more efficient and effective primary health care with lower costs.
The Brobergs spent eight years of research and development to create their business model. During that time, InformEd operated 10 clinics in Mississippi and Louisiana and served 36,000 patients.
Grand Casinos Inc. became InformEd’s largest customer, comprising 85 percent of the health care company’s business. The casino company was spending $36 million on health care annually before it started working with InformEd.
An analysis by InformEd determined that 62 percent of Grand Casinos Inc.’s health care costs were preventable by improving the lifestyles of employees and their family members and educating them to make better health care decisions, such as not going to the emergency room for non-emergencies, according to Thomas Brosig, the former chief executive officer and president of Grand Casinos Inc.
Each of the Grand Casino employees had a complete health assessment done by InformEd and received a health care plan to improve their lifestyle. After the second full year in the InformEd program, the company was saving $5 million in annual health care costs, Brosig said.
"It can create a workforce that is healthier and more knowledgeable, and it helps save the company money," he said.
InformEd won a C. Everett Koop award, given to innovative thinkers in health promotion, in 1999.
However, in 2001, Grand Casinos Inc. was purchased by a company that had been spun-off from Hilton Hotels Corp. InformEd had clinics at seven Grand Casinos, but the new owner did not renew its contracts with InformEd.
So, InformEd went into hibernation, Brenda Broberg said, and finished development of its computer software to create a paperless medical records system. In the meantime, Brosig was brought on board as the new CEO of InformEd.
"Now we’re going to break out," she said.
Wisconsin will be among the first two markets for InformEd’s resurrection.
August 20, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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