Good medicine at Good Samaritan

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Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

Call it divine intervention: As I prepared to write my daily blog Tuesday afternoon, a phone call from Good Samaritan in Evansville, IN, provided perfect inspiration.

Good Sam Administrator Mark McElwee explained about going to his board last fall and discussing how, in addition to high health insurance costs, he was concerned about the “working poor” population among his employees.

That caught my attention because I often hear a reluctance among executives to acknowledge how tough the lives of some of their employees are. In McElwee's case, he's not only acknowledging, he's doing something about it.

In a partnership with Indiana University Health, the provider and Evansville company Red Spot teamed up to split a nurse practitioner and staff assistant to run a wellness clinic. The Good Sam clinic, which opened in April, was set up at the back of the continuing care retirement community campus with two examination rooms. The clinic provides services at no charge to employees. (Those with health insurance can also have dependents seen).

McElwee took over in February 2016 and said what drew him to Good Sam was its mission of a “caring community of Christian love and concern,” and its long-tenured staff. One employee has worked there for 47 years, he shared.

“What I have come to realize is that they all want to serve the mission and create better days for the residents, but in doing so, we need to make sure we take care of them as well,” he said.

I suggested that some people reading this would say, “Well, we can't all be Mark McElwee,” and he responded firmly, “It's not about me being a nice guy. It's the right thing to do."

“The greatest investment we can make is in the staff. As clichéd as it sounds, if we do the right thing by our staff, they will create great experiences for our residents.”

But wait, other people are saying, how can Good Sam afford this? Surely the costs are tangential — healthier staff creating more positive experiences. Or anecdotal — people who receive their medication tend to not die in the middle of lifting a resident. But what about the bottom line?

McElwee says that when looking at costs, the number one issue was keeping employees out of the emergency room since it so drastically drives up health insurance costs. Many employees knew they needed to manage their diabetes or hypertension better, for example, but they either had fear of seeing a physician, worried about the co-pays or couldn't find the time. Now, with a clinic on campus for free and the ability to set up appointments online, employees can manage their own health better.

“Financially, we've generated tremendous savings in the first six months of the year,” he noted. He said the model involved around $130,000 to $150,000 in investment, and he is currently $120,000 better off with health insurance costs.

“I already have the return,” he proudly said. “The model will more than pay itself in first 18 months.”

But yes, there also is an emotional payoff for administrators who want to follow Good Sam's lead.

McElwee, who lives on campus, says that when he arrives at work, a steady stream of people come up to him and say, “Mark, I didn't manage this before. I don't have a doctor or primary care, but I go to the back of the campus. My blood pressure and my diabetes are being managed now.”

McElwee says he tells his 270 employees, “I want you around and we want to take care of you.”

It's hard to think of more inspiring words to any employee's ears.

Follow Elizabeth Newman @TigerELN. Email her at

Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.