Oak Street, Interwell Joint Venture to Offer Primary Care in Dialysis Centers

March 22, 2023
‘OakWell’ will begin offering care services in Chicago, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth dialysis centers in the third quarter of 2023

Oak Street Health, a value-based primary care provider, and Interwell Health, a kidney care management company, have launched a joint venture that will offer primary care to end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) patients directly in the dialysis center.

The companies said this approach to primary care for ESKD patients aims to reduce hospitalizations, increase kidney transplantations, and improve outcomes to lower the total cost of care.

The new joint venture, called OakWell, will bring the type of coordinated primary care that dialysis patients need directly to them, the companies said, offering appropriate interventions in the center while still working in close partnership with nephrologists. This will remove the barrier of attending additional, separate medical appointments and help address issues of health equity.

OakWell will initially begin offering care services in Chicago, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth dialysis centers in the third quarter of 2023.

Founded in 2012, Oak Street Health employs approximately 600 primary care providers and has 169 medical centers across 21 states. Earlier this year, CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) announced plans to purchase Oak Street Health (NYSE: OSH) for approximately $9.5 billion. Interwell was formed by the merger of Fresenius Health Partners, the value-based care division of Fresenius Medical Care North America, with Cricket Health and Interwell Health, a network of more than 1,600 nephrologists.

To improve kidney care, Interwell Health says it supports physician practices by providing personalized patient education, predictive models, customized electronic health record technology, and support from dietitians and social workers. Care coordination services help better manage often complex and chronic conditions including diabetes, hypertension, and behavioral health.

When a patient receives in-center dialysis treatment, they spend around 12 hours each week in a dialysis center, often making it difficult to attend primary care and other healthcare appointments. This is a significant challenge, as dialysis patients often have other complex chronic conditions and would benefit from high-quality, preventive primary care. OakWell said it would enable patients to receive coordinated care from a primary care team and nephrologist.

“There is a significant opportunity to leverage the time spent by dialysis patients in-center to improve their overall quality of life,” said David Buchanan, M.D., M.S., chief clinical officer at Oak Street Health, in a statement. “Receiving personalized, preventive primary care from expert care teams can positively impact patient health. We are thrilled to launch this innovative joint venture to remove barriers to comprehensive care for people living with kidney failure.”

“People living with kidney disease have incredibly complex needs,” added Robert Sepucha, CEO of Interwell Health, in a statement. “We are uniquely positioned to support these patients and are making great strides through our physician partnerships and connectivity to dialysis centers. We know that value-based care only really works when we transform the whole system, which is why we're so excited to partner with Oak Street Health. Through this collaboration with a leader in primary care, we can truly help dialysis patients live their best lives.”

The OakWell care teams will closely manage patients' chronic conditions, help them avoid missed dialysis treatments, quickly reschedule any missed dialysis treatments, and coordinate care outside of the center. When patients have urgent needs and aren't currently in a dialysis center, providers will conduct video visits and provide other support to make sure patients stay healthy and out of the hospital. Additional services such as behavioral health and renal pharmacy support will provide complete, wraparound care. OakWell care teams will also support coordination of kidney transplants when possible.