VOL. 10 | NO. 21 | Saturday, May 20, 2017
EMPHASIS: Health Care
LifeSigns Turns 25 With Continued Focus on Preventive Health Care
By K. DENISE JENNINGS
A Memphis health care company that was at the forefront of preventive care is turning 25 this year. LifeSigns, owned by The Prevention Group, started offering comprehensive executive physicals to Memphis’ large corporations in 1992 to give big companies an alternative to sending their executives to places like The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
LifeSigns launched its first HealthyHere clinic van in July and now has three on the road. Sandy Bradford, regional director of business development, says LifeSigns will get more vans and hire more staff as clients join the program. (Memphis News/Andrew J. Breig)
“We started partnering with corporations on a local level, but found out there were not enough companies that wanted to pay outright, so we started partnering with corporations and their employees through employer health care coverage,” said Sandy Bradford, regional director of business development at LifeSigns and an employee since the company was a year old.
Today, LifeSigns sees an estimated 10,000 patients per year and partners with nearly 200 corporations within 100 miles of Memphis to provide their employees with comprehensive primary and preventive care through employer-sponsored health care plans.
“A lot of companies rely on us to take care of their employees,” said Bradford.
LifeSigns also sees individual patients and is at least partially covered by most major insurance plans operating in the Memphis area, though it does not accept Medicare, Medicaid or TennCare.
Comprehensive physicals at LifeSigns are one to 2 ½ hours in length and include, but are not limited to, a complete physical exam, screening ultrasound, blood work and urinalysis, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, eye exam, body composition analysis, audiometry, pulmonary function test, mammography, gynecological tests and prostate specific antigen.
Bradford said ultrasound screenings aren’t a standard part of most physicals and are one of the most effective diagnostic tools the clinic uses.
“Because we are so thorough, we uncover a lot of problems that people don’t realize they have, and we can point them to a specialist so it doesn’t become life-threatening,” he said. “Patients have come in for a physical and left in an ambulance because of something we’ve found. … Along the way we’ve saved at least 1,000 lives over the past 25 years. We routinely get letters from doctors that patients have been referred to about how important it has been.”
Bradford explains that many underlying health issues don’t get diagnosed without several trips to specialists with a specific complaint.
“We catch problems many times before they become symptomatic,” he said, “and in addition to saving lives, we save employers money in health care costs.”
In the past year, LifeSigns has expanded its services for partner corporations by offering on-site employee physicals through its mobile HealthyHere clinic vans.
LifeSigns makes 30-minute appointments in advance for a five-hour block, then brings the mobile clinic to the company’s parking lot to do back-to-back physicals with no wait time. The mobile physicals include many of the same tests that are offered at the clinic, including full blood panels and ultrasound screening.
HealthyHere also provides on-site follow-up care, which isn’t filed with insurance and is free for the employer and employee. It’s an added incentive for employees to follow up with treatment recommendations and monitor chronic conditions.
“HealthyHere addresses not just the access, but the convenience factor, which is a big issue for busy employees,” said Reece Hodges, director of operations at The Prevention Group.
Hodges says even if it’s covered, many people just don’t get regular check-ups because it’s too hard to fit a traditional doctor’s office visit into their busy schedules, and HealthyHere removes that barrier.
The program started with one mobile unit last July and is now running three units with a dozen employer programs. Six more employers are expected to join within the next two months.
“As we gain clients, we will get more units and hire more staff,” Bradford said. Currently each unit is staffed with an advanced EMT to register and take vital signs and a nurse practitioner.
As a further outreach, employees can take advantage of a telemedicine web portal, which provides medication refills, reviews of test results, coaching and urgent care.
LifeSigns also offers health management tools to help manage weight, blood pressure, lipids, glucose, smoking cessation and fitness, and it includes phone app versions of web-based tools tailored to fit the needs of worksite campaigns.
“We do as much as we can to keep the patients engaged and follow up,” said Bradford.
First Tennessee Bank National Association has partnered with LifeSigns for a number of years, and the company already has HealthyHere going to several locations throughout Memphis. “They’ve been instrumental as a resource for us to help our employees engage with their annual physical,” said Martha Flowers, First Tennessee’s Wellness First wellness director. “We’ve actually picked up a lot of people willing to get their annual physical because of HealthyHere. We’ve taken full advantage of it, and filled it up every time.”
In recent years, many companies have realized they need to promote wellness and a relationship with a primary doctor for the well-being of their employees, but also to increase productivity and save money on health care, which Bradford points out is a growing expense for companies.
“It’s like changing the oil in your car. You can either do that regularly or you have to replace your whole engine down the road,” he said. “You need regular maintenance on your body, not just your car.”