Spokane Journal of Business

Kinwell Medical Group to staff up in Spokane

Physician-owned practice aims to grow after taking over Vivacity clinics here

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Kinwell Medical Group, a physician-owned practice that took over three clinics in Spokane last fall and treats Premera Blue Cross clients exclusively, is focused on staffing up the clinics, says Dr. Sarah Crow, regional medical director for Eastern Washington.

“Our goal for the next at least year is to bolster the clinics we currently have, as we have (job) openings in every clinic in Spokane,” she says. “We’re actively recruiting.”

Crow declines to disclose Kinwell’s patient volumes.

As reported by the Journal last fall, four clinics in Spokane County belonging to Vera Whole Health Inc., which does business as Vivacity Care Centers, changed operations and were rebranded to Kinwell Medical Group, a Seattle-based primary health provider, through the entity 600 Stewart Medical Group PC. Premera Blue Cross announced its partnership with Vera Whole Health in 2019 to open Vivacity Care clinics in Spokane that would serve Premera members exclusively. The first opened in 2020. Vera Whole Health managed the employees and operations of all four clinics until they were rebranded to Kinwell.

After a short transition and light renovations, three of the four rebranded Kinwell clinics are now operating. They are located at 16009 E. Indiana, in Spokane Valley; at 307 W. Sixth, on Spokane’s lower South Hill; and at 9001 N. Country Homes Blvd., on Spokane’s North Side. The fourth clinic, located near the Division Street-Mission Avenue intersection, was used as a training center for its Spokane providers during the transition. Kinwell closed that clinic, however, due to its relative proximity to the location on Sixth Avenue.

The three clinics have a combined staff of 30, including clinicians, clinic managers, medical assistants, patient care coordinators, behavioral health clinicians, and a health coach.

Crow declines to disclose the medical group’s projected annual revenue.

Kinwell clinics serve people who have Premera Blue Cross insurance, Premera Blue Cross Medicare plans, BlueCard holders, and LifeWise Health Plan of Washington as their primary insurance. Care is provided by clinicians of the physician-owned medical group and administrative and business services are provided by Practice Management Group LLC, which does business as Kinwell Physician Network-6th & Washington.

The collaboration between Mountlake Terrace, Washington-based Premera Blue Cross and Kinwell Medical Group was born out of a need for more primary care providers that Premera saw from its customers, says Crow. Standard wait times to see a primary care provider can take six months to a year, she adds.

“There was an access need, as well as a quality need,” she says.

According to the latest Association of American Medical Colleges survey, physician shortages prior to the COVID-19 pandemic were already being felt by Americans nationwide with 35% of respondents citing they or someone they knew had trouble finding a doctor in the past two years. That represents a 10-point jump from when the poll was conducted in 2015, the report states.

Furthermore, the study forecasts that by 2034, the U.S. will face a shortage of up to 124,000 physicians, including a shortage of 48,000 primary care providers.

Premera Blue Cross and Kinwell Medical Group announced their partnership to address this looming shortfall in January of 2022. Since then, the medical group has opened a total of 17 clinics across Washington state. Kinwell opened its first two clinics in Wenatchee and Yakima, Washington, in December 2021.

One of the aspects that sets apart the Kinwell Medical Group is the amount of time that is spent with each patient, says Crow.

The clinic offers its patients three types of appointments: 20-minute appointments for one or two concerns, 40-minute wellness visits, and full-hour appointments for new patients and annual Medicare visits, she says.

“We have extended visits where we really get to dive in with our people and meet them where they’re at and really tailor our approach to what they need,” says Crow, who is a provider at the Spokane Valley clinic.

Crow says that in addition to the amount of time that each patient is afforded with a provider, Kinwell clinics adhere to next-day available appointments that can be done in person or virtually. The medical group has a “whole person” approach to health care that includes diet, fitness, and behavioral health. Some of the clinics’ specialties include women’s health, onsite blood tests, sports physicals, lifestyle medicine, and geriatric care.

Each clinic has integrated behavioral health specialists as part of the team, says Crow. While they might not be part of each patient’s visit, they potentially could be made available if requested during a visit.

Crow says the Kinwell Group uses a nonproduction model that focuses on quality rather than quantity, which lends itself to high patient satisfaction, as reflected within the patient satisfaction surveys.

“This model is just different and feels different to the patients,” says Crow. “It feels different to me. I’m allowed to be the best doctor that I can be here, and I’m allowed to show up for people in ways that I never have been as a provider.”

Karina Elias
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Reporter Karina Elias covers the banking and finance industry. A California native, she attended the University of California at Santa Barbara. Karina loves salsa dancing, traveling, baking, cuddling with her dog, and writing creative fiction and non-fiction.  

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