Reprinted from the Lake Wylie Pilot | By Jennifer Becknell

Providence Care, a private health care agency that offers old-fashioned house calls for geriatric patients and other services including hospice care, has opened a new office in York.

The agency, which has been serving upstate South Carolina counties since 2010 with offices in Greenville and Summerville, recently began serving York County, said CEO Johnnie Garmon.

The York office, at 1736 Old York Road, will serve patients in a 45-mile radius, Garmon said, which includes Lake Wylie, Rock Hill, Fort Mill and parts of Chester and Lancaster counties.

“We currently are serving about 35 patients in this area, and we have only been open for about six weeks,” Garmon said last week. “We serve over 600 patients in the upstate.”

Dr. Ramin Shah, a geriatrician who earned his medical degree at St. George University School of Medicine in the West Indies, says house call care can benefit patients.

“With modern technology, house call visits can produce better clinical outcomes than other outpatient settings,” Shah said. “Lab work, blood draws and even complicated X-ray procedures can be done in the home setting.”

Shah said the agency saw a need in the York County area for physicians to make house calls to shut-in and homebound patients.

“Our goal is to improve the patient’s quality of life and reduce emergency room visits and hospitalizations that result with the patient being able to live at home longer,” he said. “This can be done with seeing the patient and home and spending more time with the patient.”

Garmon said Shah is being joined by Dr. Bob Randall, who will serve as medical director of the hospice program and also helps with house calls. Randall, a surgeon now doing family medicine, earned his medical degree at Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University.

Garmon said Providence Care offers three levels of service. They include primary house calls for geriatric care; in-home palliative care to manage pain and provide services to patients with chronic illnesses; and hospice care, for patients who have terminal illnesses.

“We’re the only ones in the state that have a continuum of geriatric care,” Garmon said. “We call it a geriatric wellness system.”

Garmon noted that with health care reimbursements being cut, many doctors are forced to see up to 30 patients a day. “We’re able to go into the home and actually see what they are eating, spend more time with the patient.”

He said a new admission visit may last an hour; routine visits may last 30 to 45 minutes. The frequency depends on the patient’s needs, he said. The agency’s staff also includes nurse practitioners.

He said the service is funded with Medicare reimbursements from hospice patients and private health insurance. He also said they are starting a nonprofit arm to raise money to support the services.

“We don’t waste our money,” Garmon said, referring to the agency’s ability to be profitable by keeping operating costs low. “We’re just a bunch of providers. I don’t have this huge bureaucratic overhead.”