RACHAEL SMITH The (Lynchburg) News & Advance
LYNCHBURG — Stacey Shelor was sick of waiting rooms.
She was having a harder time getting doctor appointments for her family members and was looking for a change.
She became a client of Agenacare Housecalls shortly after launching in 2019 through a mutual friend of the owner.
“I tried that and it was absolutely fabulous because you get on the phone, they set up a time and they’re at your house, which is nice because it makes you feel comfortable in your home,” she said.
Shelor, a Salem resident, liked that Agenacare could do anything a GP would do.
“And I also like the fact that this group of professionals treats you like you’re family or a friend and not just a number,” she said.
Now these services are also available to residents of Lynchburg.
Roanoke-based Agenacare Housecalls owner and founder Whitney Pugh started the company in the fall of 2019 after years of working in corporate medicine, tired of what she described as a broken healthcare system.
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“I remember sitting there and thinking, ‘I hate what I’m doing. I went to school for seven years to hustle people in and out like a cattle market. “I was so frustrated with that,” she said.
As a practicing family nurse, she decided to complain about it or fix it.
“I was sitting there with my husband and I was like, ‘I’m going to open an emergency practice for concierge house calls on cell phones and go to their homes,’ and I remember he looked at me and was like, ‘What?'” He said you.
Just months after launch, the COVID pandemic reached the area.
Pugh had to decide whether to continue or close. But she never switched off or turned away a patient.
COVID-19 has put Agenacare on the map, she said, because patients need to find alternatives to what they are used to in terms of primary health care.
It started with 25 patients in 2019 and grew to 500 patients by 2020.
When COVID-19 struck, Shelor was reassured to have a professional she knew come into her home fully masked and shielded.
“They even wore a hazmat suit, bless them,” she said.
If their family required COVID-19 testing, Agenacare could come to their home and do the same. They also do annual physical exams, exercise tests, and strep tests, give stitches, and do blood tests and X-rays.
“It was fast, efficient and they were out. That’s the other part of it, they’re in and out. They listen to you and they take care of your health issues and then it’s over and you don’t have to sit around and wait,” she said.
According to Pugh, the average time from the phone call to a provider showing up at their home is two hours.
“So you don’t have to sit in an (ER) waiting room for hours or wait for emergency care,” she said.
In 2021, it was time to add a team of healthcare professionals along with Pugh who eventually served nearly 10,000 patients.
“We just kept thriving and kept growing,” she said. “I really wanted to take it like you know how the doctor went back to the homes years ago. That was really what I brought back because sometimes change doesn’t always mean something better,” she said.
Pugh said that although the flagship office is based in Roanoke, her team can travel across the state to see patients, which lends itself to the Lynchburg area, where it has built a client base over the years.
Agenacare recently opened in Lynchburg and plans to open a physical office once it gets busier.
Pugh takes pride in the company’s growth, but most importantly, in its customer service.
“You’ll find that from calling the dispatchers, to the provider, to the follow-up calls, they’re always treated with respect and kindness,” she said.
Agenacare also doesn’t buy insurance, a move Pugh says has removed much of the stress and hurdles in healthcare.
“If the insurance company says you can’t do something or don’t want you to do something, they tell you it won’t pay. And then they hold your hands because the patient doesn’t want to pay for it because it’s too expensive and the company can’t pay for it,” she said.
So the company does not take out insurance and only charges a flat fee per visit or membership.
“With insurance, even though people have premiums of $500 to $1,000 a month, the reimbursements for us would be exactly $50 per home visit. It’s just not feasible and it doesn’t work,” she said. “So we removed the whole piece from it so we don’t have to worry about insurance and neither do the patients.”
In addition to COVID-19 testing, other services include flu vaccines, suture and wound care, physical exams, telemedicine, IV nutrition therapy, and lab draws.
The Company offers direct benefit plans, family memberships, and corporate memberships.
Shelor said her days in crowded waiting rooms are over and she feels safer when health professionals come to her.
Agenacare now sees not only her family, but also her extended family.
“It’s just become a part of our lives,” she said. “I consider her my family doctor. I don’t call anyone else. That’s who I call for everything.”
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