Harken introduces new health care model

Harken introduces new health care model

One of America’s newest healthcare systems comes to the Atlanta area with the start of the new year as Harken Health opens a network of centers. 

“I’m very excited to introduce this unique model of health care to the Atlanta area. We call it health care reimagined because we asked people what they want when they seek health care and what they find frustrating. Then we designed a system from the ground up that’s aligned to people’s needs. Our goal is to simplify and improve the health care experience,” said Tom Vanderheyden, Harken Health CEO and a member of the team that created the system.

A silent auction at the Decatur open hose featured health-focused artwork created by local artists. Proceeds benefited the Decatur Education Foundation.
A silent auction at the Decatur open hose featured health-focused artwork created by local artists. Proceeds benefited the Decatur Education Foundation.

Vanderheyden and other Harken representatives held an open house Dec. 3 at the downtown Decatur center, where tours of the facility were conducted and information distributed. The event also included free yoga classes as a demonstration of the types of wellness events that are to be held regularly at the center. In addition to yoga, strength training, healthful cooking classes, diabetes management classes and similar sessions will be offered at no charge to members.  

Atlanta is the second area to have Harken Health centers. The system was introduced in Chicago earlier in 2015. Harken plans to expand to other communities soon, Vanderheyden said.

“The nationwide health care conversation has never needed to be more personal or poignant,” according to Vanderheyden, who added,  “It touches all of us and particularly affects Atlanta’s small businesses and thousands of residents searching for quality care.” 

One of the new centers is located in downtown Decatur.
One of the new centers is located in downtown Decatur.

Describing the model as “relationship-based,” Vanderheyden said a health coach who works with the patient and his or her healthcare providers to make sure each is fully informed is part of each member’s care team. 

Describing the health coaches as the team’s “quarterback,” Vanderheyden said they help members form and maintain plans for their health and well-being. “Typically, they sit down with patients and review what they want to talk with the doctor about on that visit so the patient doesn’t forget to bring up questions that he may have,” he added. 

Vanderheyden said not all health coaches are health care professionals, “But they are all experts in listening,” he said.  

“Strong relationships and a home base for high-quality primary care have been shown to improve patient satisfaction and lower overall medical costs. Team members are empowered with the time to listen and build authentic and trusting relationships with members,” Vanderheyden said. 

Harken integrates care and health insurance so there are no claims to file and no bills for primary care visits. “We believe this not only makes health care simpler for the patient, but it also keeps it competitively priced,” Vanderheyden said. The monthly premium covers unlimited visits and gives the member seven-day-a week, 24-hour a day access to doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants, health coaches and other care givers who can be reached by telephone or email. 

“We have behavioral health specialists on staff,” Vanderheyden noted. “That’s something most places refer patients to another facility for.” He said online prescription drug ordering is also part of Harken’s service.

Harken members also are covered for urgent care when they’re traveling with access to approximately 850,000 physicians, medical professionals and hospitals. 

For routine care, members can come to any one of Harken’s locations, including ones in Decatur, Brookhaven and four other Atlanta area locations, where space is used differently from the way health clinics are typically configured. 

“We have sought to make the space warm and inviting. This is a consulting room,” Vanderheyden said, pointing to a parlor-like room in the Decatur center with chairs and a sofa. “A doctor and patient don’t always need to be in an examining room.”  

The name was chosen for two reasons, Vanderheyden explained. “First, harken means listen and we feel that listening to patients is a crucial part of providing quality healthcare.  Secondly, ‘harken back’ means to return—and that’s what we do. We return to a simpler time when doctors knew patients by name and took the time to listen to and understand them.” 

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