The proof is in the pudding at Atracare
After growing up in Lewes and graduating from the University of Delaware, Will Albanese started his healthcare career as a pharmacy technician at Happy Harry’s in Newark. He really enjoyed the service aspect of helping patients, and felt like he had developed a real skill in dealing with difficult or unhappy customers. Enjoying the atmosphere of the pharmacy, he pursued a degree from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Maryland, which he received in 2011. While attending the pharmacy school, Will met his wife Lindsay, a medical student at Maryland.
After graduation, Will’s first job as a pharmacist was working in Beebe Healthcare’s emergency department, where he worked alongside both nurses and doctors. He liked having to think quickly on his feet and playing an important role on the emergency department team. He enjoyed the role so much, he stayed in that position for 10 years. Will was also able to earn an MBA from the University of Delaware while working there. Will believed that success in healthcare required not only a clinical background, but also an understanding of the business aspects of how a healthcare system functions.
Will and Lindsay determined that working for themselves would ultimately give them the best opportunities to address many challenges in the system, so they left Beebe in 2020 and opened Aspira Health (the name later changed to Atracare when a publicly traded company of the same name threatened a lawsuit). With so many opportunities for patients to fall through the cracks, they wanted to develop a practice that offered multiple aspects along the continuum of care. They opened a medical practice that offered both primary and urgent care. It was also important to them to be nimble and innovative, to take advantage of the changes in healthcare that were on the horizon.
Little did they know the opening of their practice would coincide with the COVID pandemic. They quickly saw the tremendous need for patients to get tested in the early phases of the pandemic and started a testing center with the state. In that first year, they did more than 40,000 tests. With healthcare costs being a significant issue, they believed fee-for-service medicine was probably not a sustainable model. They developed a contract with a company called Aledade, where they joined a Medicare Accountable Care Organization that was attempting a different care and payment model for primary care doctors. They believed this different approach would ultimately make it better for patients and more attractive for physicians. As such, they felt it would be a recruitment advantage to bring more doctors to the area. Today, Will sees a big part of his role as not only overseeing the administrative aspects of Atracare, but also serving as an advocate in Dover for doctors, nurses and patients.
During the pandemic, Atracare worked with 26 school systems across the state to offer vaccination clinics for students and faculty. While running clinics, they connected with many nurses and parents. Both groups expressed real concerns about the lack of mental health resources for students, whose lives had been upended by the virus. As a result, they opened a mental health clinic in Lewes with a psychiatrist, a nurse practitioner and a number of therapists.
Their expansion continued with another location in Ocean View offering primary and urgent care. They have also broken ground for a 10,000-square-foot building on Plantation Road which will ultimately house multiple doctors and mid-level practitioners.
Despite the many challenges of opening during the pandemic and managing several expansion sites, Will and his wife have tried to maintain focus on patients while creating a culture of responsiveness and innovation for the staff. The proof is in the pudding; of the 40 providers Atracare has employed, only two have left. They now have 60 full-time employees and 40 part-time staff members.
Will is most proud of the team they have developed at Atracare and the loyalty of the patients who come to them for care. He’s also proud of the award his team received from the state for supporting students who come to Atracare to learn more about the primary care setting.
Will believes that change is essential for the healthcare system to be more resilient, responsive to patients and desirable for doctors. He and Lindsay look forward to Atracare being on the leading edge of many of the changes that are coming. As Will said, “We hope to take advantage of the many options technology will offer patients to have more control over their choices and easier access to the healthcare system when needed.”