Revolution in primary care goes big time

Jeff Rusinow

Jeff Rusinow

Chalk up another win for the entrepreneurial forces in the Milwaukee region and for reshaping the business model for the delivery of health care.

The dual win comes from the sale of ModernMed, a startup with roots in Milwaukee, to DaVita Inc., a national firm with more than 1700 dialysis centers. The sale price was not disclosed, but you can bet that Milwaukee angel investors, led by Jeff Rusinow, were more than happy with their returns.

The sale will add to the growing momentum in Southeastern Wisconsin for new ventures, and you can bet that some of the gains from ModernMed will be plowed back into additional startup deals. Rusinow, a former executive at Kohl’s Department Stores, has been leading the charge to create an entrepreneurial culture in Wisconsin for more than a decade.

The major star of the ModernMed success story was Jami Doucette, a descendant of the family that started and grew Milwaukee Insurance Co. He got the idea for a concierge medicine franchise operation after graduating from Tufts with an MD and an MBA. He wanted to create a high touch alternative to the turn-style delivery methods or large health care corporations.

He started by signing up individual clients for intimate, responsive, proactive primary care. But he then switched his business model to include self-insured companies that were looking for a better delivery system for health care. Serigraph was his first corporate customer.

The business quickly grew to 26 doctors across 12 states, because on-site clinics have proven to save as much as 33% in costs. That’s the second big win.

Private employers are racing to the on-site model for two reasons: they get control of the front end of the supply chain, and they can get serious about employee health. It is my Serigraph doctor, contracted through ModernMed, who orders tests, who calls in specialists, who orders admits to hospitals. We are the gatekeeper, not the primary care doctors who have been bought up by the big systems. It’s a huge difference.

And, instead of reactive medicine that fixes people when they are broken or sick, we work to keep them healthy and out of the hospital. Our hospital admissions have been cut in half.

The results are so dramatic that Doucette, who will stay with DaVita, will have a field day rolling out this new model to employers across the country. They will be pioneers in fixing what ails the U.S. health care industry.

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