By Christina Autry

When seniors began walking into Iora Primary Care in Spring Branch on November 1st, they didn’t find themselves in a waiting room, with a receptionist behind a glass window. They didn’t sign their name to the bottom of a clipboard, hoping that their appointment time wouldn’t be too behind schedule. Instead, patients were greeted by receptionists in a warm, living room style reception area. Replacing the standard rows of chairs were couches, a kitchen table, a coffee bar, and various sizes of chairs to make anyone feel relaxed.

Although it’s tempting to get comfortable, patients who schedule a visit to Iora won’t have to spend much time in the reception area. Iora doctors pride themselves on respecting their patients’ schedules and honoring their appointment times. Iora doctors intentionally limit the number of patients they see to 1/3 of the average doctor in order to meet this goal.

“You’ll notice a few things about Iora right away,” says Emily Rash, Market Operations Leader of Houston’s six new Iora locations. “We provide convenient care for the community, starting with easy parking. We want to make the Iora experience as approachable and enjoyable as possible,” she explains.

Iora has broken out of the healthcare mold that builds barriers between patients and doctors. Rushika Fernandopulle, Iora founder, is a physician who after graduating from Harvard and working in the medical field became discontented with the quality of healthcare that is normally provided. He was frustrated by the lack of time available to truly address patient health concerns, and the limited resources for serving patients with a holistic plan of care.

Fernandopulle realized that the only cure for the symptoms of a complicated system was to establish an independent model of practice. Iora is specifically designed so that patients “become part of their own care team,” says Rash. “You can’t accomplish that in a short visit. Doctors have to take time to hear their patients’ perspectives. What we end up with is not a plan we just give them, it’s a plan we come up with together.” Relationship-building and trust are at the heart of the Iora model.

Iora’s Care Coordination team includes physicians, behavioral therapists and health coaches that work collaboratively to support patients in their individual goals. “Our health coaches are here to provide more guidance than just ‘eat better and exercise.’ That’s good advice, but there’s a lot of knowledge that goes into executing a healthy lifestyle,” says Tina Pariani, Lead Physician. Health coaches meet with patients to create plans, and check in to monitor and support the patient along the way.

In the case that patients need to see a specialist, the Iora team will communicate with them, for a smooth, uninterrupted flow of care. “We think about patients when they’re outside of our four walls,” notes Rash. “Our team starts every day with a meeting to discuss our patients and their plans of care, whether they’re coming in that day or not.”

The new Iora facility itself supports the philosophy behind the practice, with a room available for patients and community groups to hold meetings, including fitness, knitting, or classes providing helpful healthcare information. Examination rooms have tables where patients and doctors sit across from one another and can have equal view of notes typed by the doctor. A separate Consult Room provides a space for patients or families of patients to meet with health coaches and other providers in a more relaxed setting.

As an outpatient primary care geriatric center, Iora serves anyone 65 and older on Medicare. “Oftentimes people on Medicare are underserved by the healthcare community. We are uniquely designed to fill this gap and give them the care they need,” says Pariani. Geriatric physicians must be equipped with a wealth of knowledge to address multiple, simultaneous health concerns. “Because the average senior is on 13 medications per year, we have a deep knowledge of interactions and side effects,” says Rash. “We work to find ways to ease the ‘pill burden’ for our patients and decrease this number,” adds Pariani.

“Iora has been very successful in reaching our goal of transforming healthcare, and promoting happier, healthier lives,” says Rash. “Compared to the industry average, Iora customers go the E.R. 20% less, and are having to go to the hospital 40% less.”

In the first month that Iora has served Spring Branch, patients used to going from doctor to doctor are finding relief with Iora staff who take the time to listen to them. Iora has strategically located itself in Spring Branch due to the great need of the community for the geriatric care they offer. “We are excited to be in Spring Branch, and engage with the different organizations here,” says Rash. “This is a great community to be part of,” says Pariani. As we head into a new year, Spring Branch seniors can expect a happier, healthier 2020.

Iora Primary Care
10124 Hammerly Blvd, Houston, TX 77080

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