June 26, 2022

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Delighting home maniacs

Roanoke-based housecall service opens in Lynchburg, bringing healthcare to the home | Local Business News

Roanoke-based housecall service opens in Lynchburg, bringing healthcare to the home | Local Business News

Stacey Shelor was tired of waiting rooms.

She was having a harder time getting doctor’s appointments for her family members and was looking for a change.

She became a client of Agenacare Housecalls soon after it launched in 2019 through a mutual friend of the owner.

“I tried this out and it was absolutely fabulous because you make a phone call, they set up a time and they are at your home, which is nice because you feel comfortable in your home,” she said.

Shelor, a Salem resident, liked that Agenacare could do anything a general practitioner would.

“And I also like the fact that this group of professionals treat you like you’re a family member or friend, versus just a number,” she said.

Now, these services are available to Lynchburg-area residents as well.

Whitney Pugh, owner and founder of Roanoke-based Agenacare Housecalls, launched the business in fall 2019 after working in corporate medicine for years, tired of what she described as a broken health care system. 

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“I remember sitting there thinking, ‘I hate what I do. I’ve gone to school for seven years to run people in and out like a cattle market.’ I was so frustrated with it,’” she said.

As a family nurse practitioner, she decided she could complain about it or fix it.

“I was sitting there with my husband and I said, ‘I’m going to start a concierge house call urgent care practice on mobile, and I’m going to go to their homes,’ and I remember he looked at me and was like, ‘What?’” she said.

Only a few months after launching, the COVID pandemic reached the area.

Pugh had to determine whether she would keep going or shut down. But she never shut down or turned a patient away.

COVID-19 put Agenacare on the map, she said, because patients had to find alternatives to what they were used to in terms of primary healthcare.

She started with 25 patients in 2019 and grew to have 500 patients in 2020.

When COVID-19 hit, it was calming to Shelor to have a professional who she knew come into her home fully masked and shielded.

“They even wore a hazmat suit, God bless them,” she said.

If her family needed COVID-19 testing, Agenacare was able to come to their home and do that as well. They also conduct yearly physicals, sports physicals, and strep tests, give stitches and perform blood work and X-Rays.

“It was quick, efficient and they were out. That’s the other part of this, is they’re in and out. They listen to you and they take care of what needs to be taken care of as far as your health issues are concerned and then it’s over and you don’t have to sit and wait,” she said.

Pugh said the average time from when a call is made to when a provider shows up at their home is two hours.

“So you don’t have to go sit in an [emergency room] waiting room or urgent care waiting around for hours,” she said.

In 2021, it was time to add on a team of health care professionals to come along  with Pugh, who ended up serving close to 10,000 patients.

“We just kept flourishing and kept growing ,” she said. “I wanted to really take it like you know how the doc used to go back to the homes years ago. That was really what I was bringing back because sometimes change doesn’t always mean for the better,” she said.

Pugh said though the flagship office is based in Roanoke, her team can travel all over the state to see patients, lending itself to the Lynchburg area where it grew a client-base over the years.

Agenacare opened in Lynchburg earlier this month and plans to open a physical office once it gets busier.

Pugh is proud of how the business has grown but mostly of its customer service.

“You’ll find that from the time they call us to the dispatchers, to the provider, to the follow up calls, they’re always treated respectfully, kindly,” she said. “That’s always been my thing because when you feel bad you don’t want to be treated like crap.”

Agenacare also doesn’t take insurance, a move Pugh said has cut out a lot of the health care stress and hurdles.

“If insurance determines that you can’t do something or they don’t want you to do something, they tell you it’s not going to be paid for. And then your hands are held because the patient doesn’t want to pay it because it’s too expensive and the company can’t pay it,” she said.

So the business doesn’t take insurance and just charges one flat fee per visit or membership.

“With insurance, even though people may have premiums of $500 to $1,000 a month, reimbursements for us, per house call, would be right at $50. It’s just not feasible and it doesn’t work,” she said. “So we took that whole piece out of it so we don’t have to deal with the insurance and the patients don’t either.”

Along with COVID-19 testing, other services include flu vaccines, suture and wound care, physicals, telehealth, IV nutrition therapy and lab draws.

The company offers direct primary care plans, family memberships and corporate memberships.

Shelor said her days are over of sitting in crowded waiting rooms and she feels safer having health professionals come to her.

Agenacare sees not only her family but her extended family now, too.

“It’s just become a part of our life,” she said. “I consider them my general practitioner. I don’t call anybody else. This is who I call for everything.”