Q&A with Matthew Narrett, M.D., chief medical officer for Erickson Living
In light of heightened awareness regarding senior health and the importance of healthy aging, along with the flu season upon us, it is an important time to consider the distinct benefits of an integrated health and wellness system that helps keep seniors safe and healthy: Erickson Health Medical Group (EHMG).
In a recent interview, Matthew Narrett, M.D., Erickson Living's chief medical officer, shared his perspective on the benefits of living in a community that offers a comprehensive approach to well-being.
Question 1: Why is an Erickson Living-managed community a top choice for retirement health care?
Answer: What sets us apart in the senior housing industry is our comprehensive approach to well-being. You have to create an environment for seniors—and staff—to flourish, and this requires addressing all dimensions of health and wellness, from the social to the emotional to the physical and more. Because of our size and the scope of our services, we are able to address all these important aspects offering health care services, including EHMG and our very own insurance plan (Erickson Advantage [EA]), plus a wide range of opportunities and activities for residents to realize their personal wellness goals.
EHMG's dedicated providers are right on campus and include doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, mental health providers and podiatrists. The medical center is literally down the hall from where residents live, and our providers also visit assisted living, memory care and our skilled nursing facilities so continuing care residents are seen in the comfort of their home.
Some of the specific ways residents' wellness goals and needs have been met this past year include providing 30-minute follow-up medical appointments; conducting 44,000 same-day medical appointments in the medical centers alone; and making medical providers available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, either in person, via telehealth visits or by phone.
Question 2: What is the scope of services provided by EHMG?
Answer: Our full-service on-site medical centers offer primary care services, such as physical exams, on-site lab testing and preventive care, like immunizations. We also offer podiatric services as foot care is essential to good geriatric health. Furthermore, with mental health and emotional well-being also important health factors, we have social workers and mental health providers as part of our medical practice. We also bring many specialists right on campus so residents have the benefit and convenience of dental services, ophthalmology, orthopedics and much more without having to travel.
Beyond the medical practice, Erickson Living offers a whole host of ancillary health care services, including full-service rehabilitation facilities, fully staffed fitness centers, and at most locations, certified home health and home support staff who offer a range of senior care options. This is in addition to on-site assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing facilities that work closely each and every day with the medical center. Most sites also have full-service pharmacies that deliver, so residents don't have to venture out for their medications.
This full complement of medical and health care professionals is highly integrated and applies a team-based approach facilitated by technologies, like our proprietary patient portal with convenient access to residents' electronic medical records. We also offer telehealth options which have been particularly helpful while we manage through the pandemic. This year alone, thus far, we have performed well over 30,000 telehealth visits.
Question 3: How is EHMG preparing for this year's flu season?
Answer: The flu shot is a remarkably safe way to protect yourself; this is particularly true for seniors. At Erickson Living, we administer the high-dose vaccine, which has been specifically developed for seniors, because studies have demonstrated that this vaccine results in a stronger immune response and better protection than the standard dose.
This year it is particularly important to get vaccinated for influenza because of COVID-19. The symptoms of COVID-19 are often very similar to flu symptoms. Body aches, fever, chills, cough are common to both illnesses so differentiating the two will be challenging. We typically immunize well over 90% of the residents against flu as compared to the national average of about 65%, and we offer flu shots free of charge to staff as an additional preventive measure. To facilitate our vaccination efforts this year, our teams have been going door-to-door to offer residents flu shots in the comfort of their apartment homes. By going above and beyond in service, we are able to help residents continue to live their healthiest lives.
Question 4: How does EHMG help residents achieve their wellness goals?
Answer: One of the things I enjoy most is seeing residents taking advantage of the wide range of wellness services and activities available on campus that nurture their minds, bodies and souls. These activities share the common thread of supporting holistic health and align with our Embrace Wellness program that emphasizes healthy living habits within seven dimensions of wellness: intellectual, social, physical, occupational, emotional, spiritual and environmental.
Some of the many healthy living options that are woven into every aspect of life at our communities include: having a state-of-the-art fitness center and heated indoor pool; paved outdoor walkways for strolling or biking outdoors; virtual special events and shows, including guest speakers and lectures; a Worship Center for personal reflection; a diversity of clubs and activities, including a woodshop and art classes; many volunteer opportunities; healthy menu options; and much, much more.
Question 5: Can you briefly describe Erickson Living's own health insurance plan?
Answer: Erickson Advantage® is a Medicare Advantage health plan offered through a partnership between Erickson Living and United Healthcare Insurance Company. Its benefits are designed to specifically meet the needs of residents of Erickson Living-managed communities. Today, there are more than 5,000 Erickson Advantage members in 18 Erickson Living-managed communities in 11 states.
The plan emphasizes a holistic approach across the continuum of care and aligns health benefits with surrounding supportive services and health and wellness resources in an effort to help improve quality while reducing costs for Erickson Living residents and their beneficiaries.
This month, Erickson Advantage received a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 2021 Medicare Advantage overall health plan rating of 5 stars. This recognition is a symbol of the high quality and top-rated customer service those who become Erickson Advantage members can expect. Erickson Advantage is one of only 21 Medicare Advantage health plans out of 400 health plans across the country to receive a combined 5-star rating from CMS for Part C and Part D benefits.