Latanya Weston, a nurse practitioner in Atlanta, GA, witnessed the devastating effects of kidney disease when she was just 15 years old. Her father died of kidney failure at the age of 33 and two of her siblings are currently on dialysis. Kidney disease remains a leading cause of death in the U.S. and Black Americans are four times more likely to develop kidney failure than White people, according to the National Kidney Foundation, mainly due to barriers to accessing care.
Weston decided to become a NP to address these disparities after working as a surgical technologist. She said most of the amputations and dialysis catheters that she worked on were for Black patients.
“I wanted to be part of solving the problem,” Weston said. “I know I can’t save everyone, but I knew there was something I could do.”
She now provides whole-person healthcare to patients most at risk for developing the disease by educating them about their risks and the benefits of certain lifestyle changes. Weston works with Somatus, a company that partners with doctors to provide whole-person care. It pays providers based on patient outcomes, not the number of procedures performed.
In 2021, this model represented just 6.74% of revenue in primary care specialties but it has grown dramatically over the last few years, according to a report released by the Medical Group Medical Association, as more providers recognize its potential.
Weston performs home visits in the Atlanta area to make patients feel more comfortable. “When we go into homes, we’re one on one with them. We’re able to look around and see things that we may not be able to see in the doctor’s office,” she noted.
By talking to patients inside their homes, Weston can help them change their lifestyles for the better. She will even go through the refrigerator or food cabinets to help patients select healthy options or test their medical equipment to make sure it’s working.
“We want to make sure our patients aren’t spending time in the hospital,” she added. “That’s our number one goal.”
She primarily serves Black and Hispanic communities that lack primary and specialty care facilities. “We reach them,” Weston said. “No matter what, we try to get to them.”
Whole-person care is largely about prevention. In addition to kidney disease, Weston uses this approach to prevent other types of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and congestive heart failure.
“Many of our patients lack the resources that they need in order to have the best health that they can. We’re fixing these gaps and we’re helping patients,” said Dr. Ikenna Okezie, co-founder and chief executive officer of Somatus.
The company is focused on improving patient outcomes, Okezie explained, “rather than thinking only about volume and fees.”