He discusses treating patients with the help of telemedicine and the launching of mobile medical units, equipped with examination rooms and a full lab, which will treat patients in their own neighborhoods. First of six units to be on the road in August
By Michael J. Billoni
Physician Raul Vazquez is a recognized leader in healthcare innovation and delivery. A graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences as well as Fordham University, Vazquez and his wife, Toni, founded Urban Family Practices and G-Health Enterprises in Buffalo.
Having come from humble beginnings in the Bronx, Vazquez understood that something dramatic had to be done to confront the challenges presented by a healthcare system rooted in what he defines as “reactionary care.” He believes “reactionary care” — as opposed to preventive care — is as problematic as it is unsustainable when the outcomes prevent economically distressed communities and communities of color from receiving coordinated health management, delivered in a cost effective and cohesive manner.
G-Health Enterprises has created a paradigm shift affecting real change in Western New York. Three organizations founded by the doctor and his wife — Urban Family Practice, Greater Buffalo United Accountable Healthcare Network (GBUAHN) and Greater Buffalo United Accountable Care Organization (GBUACO) all have received high praise, and national accreditation, from the coveted NCQA review board.
G-Health Enterprises has three locations in Buffalo — 564 Niagara St., 1315 Jefferson Ave. and 1195 Main St. It employs 240 with an annual budget of $22 million. For further information, visit www.ghealthenterprises.org or call 716-604-0488.
Q: What has the health of the communities you serve been like during the Covid-19 pandemic?
A: We are in the hot spot zones they are talking about in regards to the virus. When COVID-19 hit, we were well equipped for it through our extensive data bases — we have our own cloud — so we were able to track our clients by calling them, especially those we were treating before this occurred. When we did not have tests available, we were able to put them in a queue, so they knew when to come in for the test. We lost one person to the virus, but one person is too many, out of the 15,000 we serve. I am very proud of our staff because this is what we do — offering good preventive, primary and public health care and we are ahead of the curve in many areas.
Q: How did your business model change when the coronavirus pandemic occurred in mid-March?
A: When this pandemic began, we immediately switched to telehealth and we had equipment ready to continue providing care coordination to our patients. For the 8,000 clients we serve through GBUAHN, we assigned navigators to 80 to 100 people. They contacted each person to let them know what to do during this pandemic and what we could do for them. By talking with 8,000 clients we knew we were touching 24,000 people and we only had three of them infected with the virus. With contact tracing we were all set because these people trust us. We also asked them to download our COVID-19 apps which all included surveys to ensure we are doing what they needed. We managed 2,500 calls per day during this pandemic and we were able to because all of our systems are tagged in. We also repurposed staff and put some in transportation to bring people here to be tested and we had teams assigned to deliver food to those in need. We partnered with GOYA Foods and our pantry is full
Q: How long have you been doing telemedicine?
A: We have been able to conduct a virtual doctor’s visit with our clients since 2017. We are able to listen to someone’s lungs, see their ear, throat and nose and hear their heartbeat all through an interface with the client. We then make our determination from that visit.
Q: What is the future for healthcare services?
A: The future of healthcare is changing rapidly, and I personally do not believe we will need these structures to serve our clients. That is why we are now moving into the future by building a 37-foot long mobile medical unit. This will include two examination rooms, an urgent care and a full laboratory. We will partner with other organizations and we will take it on the road to zip codes with residents in most need of medical assistance. Eventually, we will own six mobile units.
Q: When should we expect to see the first mobile unit on the road?
A: It’s planned to be out in August.