WellMed: Cultivating trusting relationships 

Cora Dziuk, NP



Seeing relationships between clinicians and patients as crucial to wellness, and with a vision for improving health care delivery for seniors, Dr. George Rapier III founded WellMed in 1990. 

The organization is a capitated, full-risk Management Services Organization (MSO) specializing in care for older adults. 

WellMed provides care for more than 325,000 patients, most of whom receive Medicare. Using the WellMed Care model which adopts the philosophies of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), WellMed, a part of OptumCare®, continuously strives to improve quality and lower cost. 

With a strong focus on primary and preventive care, and using advanced informatics, WellMed produces high-quality outcomes. 

They have recently been recognized by The Joint Commission, the nation’s oldest and largest health care standard-setting and accrediting health care body, as an accredited Primary Care Medical Home and awarded the Gold Seal of Approval for Ambulatory Care.

The trust between clinician and patient is sacred. Health care providers are intimate partners in a patient’s most important undertaking: to heal and be healthy.

I came to WellMed, part of OptumCare, for the chance to give the best possible care and contribute to improving the health and lives of my patients.

Finding the right approach

It was last January that my patient and I had one of our monthly checkups. At nearly 300 pounds and with A1C blood sugar of 10, my patient and I had the same conversation as always, stressing the importance of weight loss, exercise, sugar control and medication. 

Still, as many providers may feel in similar situations, I knew the approach was not working. What was different was this: We had a relationship. I did not feel the need to rush my patient in and out of the exam room. WellMed gave us the gift of time, and time, the gift of intimacy. 

Reassured by the relationship we’d built, my patient took a chance. She challenged me. “Cora, you always tell me about the weight I need to lose. What I need to do. You know I love you, let me ask:  What about you? You are not thin.” 

I wasn’t offended, but she did pull me up short. I was honest in return. “I struggle with my weight too, every day. Although I am not diabetic, I will be if I continue down this road.”

My patient suggested an unconventional plan. “How about we do this together? Can you see me every week?” I was happy to answer ‘yes.’ At WellMed I can see a patient every week. We spent our appointment designing a plan to monitor diets with food diaries. 

We talked about carb control. After one month of weekly meetings, the connection between weight and diet and control of diabetes had truly grabbed her. She did her own research and, as partners, we kept each other accountable. 

By July, she had lost more than 50 pounds, and I had lost 40. Her A1C is down to 7.6, a significant drop from her previous value. She continues to work, saying her goal is a normal A1C value of seven.


Mutual engagement

Our relationship presented us both with the opportunity to create a true patient-generated, patient-centered care plan. 

This type of engagement is born of a model that protects that space between clinician and patient. It empowers patients and providers to find their specific path to wellness. 

My patient looked for a companion in her efforts to lose weight. She and I created a plan to improve the wellness in both of our lives. That is the power of the WellMed model.

I am proud to work with the caring people at WellMed and seek every opportunity to share this story of success. However, though caring is foundational, it is not where we stop. Quality and value outcomes are exceeded every day.


Healthy patients, healthy business

A measure of the success of our business model, WellMed San Antonio’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) exceeded its target by one point, indicating that 87 percent of clients would recommend our business to friends and family. 

In August of 2017, WellMed was honored by the Joint Commission with a three-year accreditation as a Primary Care Medical Home (PCMH) as well as the quality indicator Gold Seal of Approval® for Ambulatory Care.1

The WellMed Model of Care effectively promotes patient health as a goal in alignment with business objectives to provide high-quality, low-cost, life-enhancing care. The environment allows time spent with patients to be viewed as an investment in wellness. 

Having fewer patients per day and being strongly patient-oriented nurtures the development of honest and caring relationships. Without the precious element of time together, I would not have had the conversation that led to my partnership with a patient. 

The time we shared increased trust, and as trusted partners we worked together to find her (and my) path to healthier, happier lives.


The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of OptumCare. The views and opinions expressed may change without notice. 

  1. WellMed (2017). WellMed Awarded Gold Seal of Approval and Primary Care Medical Home Certification From The Joint Commission. [online] Available at: https://www.wellmedhealthcare.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/WM-Joint-Commission-FINAL-090417.pdf [Accessed 2 Jan. 2018].