Verve Health aims to triple workforce with new approach

Integrative medicine—which tries to improve people’s health with food, supplements, fitness and alternative medicine before trying prescription drugs—is about to become more available to Indiana employers.

Verve Health, an Indianapolis-based company that provides wellness and health clinics to employers, has begun pitching integrative medicine as an option to employers that sign up for its wellness services or employer clinics.

Verve is the new name adopted by RepuCare OnSite LLC, to reflect its July 2014 acquisition of the wellness provider Spectrum Health Systems Inc.

The company announced its new name on Monday and is now trying to raise $2 million to $4 million to take its services to more clients and more states. The business had previously raised $1 million to support its growth.

If its plans are successful, Verve could nearly triple its workforce over the next year—from 65 to as many as 180.

Verve, which operates five employer clinics now, expects that number to rise to nine by year’s end. And Verve is also hoping to add to the 50 employers that now use its wellness services.

Verve currently operates two clinics for Celadon Trucking, and another for the city of Kokomo and Howard County governments. Its wellness clients include such companies as Citizens Energy Group and Knauf Insulation, as well as IBJ Corp.

“Our next step is to market our services outside the state and ultimately to become a national player,” said Gerry Erb, Verve Health’s president.

Erb thinks integrative medicine could be the distinctive factor that sets Verve apart from other employer clinic providers, such as Wisconsin-based QuadMed, Florida-based WeCare, Indianapolis-based Activate Healthcare and Indianapolis-based OurHealth, as well as clinics operated by hospital systems.

There are more than 170 employer clinics in Indiana.

Verve Health has had 30 of its health coaches and on-site clinical managers undergo training with Dr. Jeff Gladd, a Fort Wayne physician who specializes in integrative medicine. Like most integrative medicine physicians, Gladd has a medical degree from a well-known school—in his case, the Indiana University School of Medicine—but operates his practice on a cash-only basis.

In the Indianapolis area, physicians such as Dr. Kevin Logan also offer integrative medicine services but do not accept payments from health insurance plans.

Integrative medicine tries to pick the best of both "conventional medicine" techniques—such as prescription drugs and surgeries—and alternative medical therapies, such as supplements, acupuncture, yoga, etc.

According to a 2011 survey by the American Hospital Association, 42 percent of U.S. hospitals were offering “complemetary and alternative” therapies—in addition to conventional treatments—up from 20 percent in 2004 and just 9 percent in 1998.

Verve's Erb acknowledged that not every employer nor every individual will choose integrative medicine—and for those clients, Verve’s workers will still provide conventional medical approaches.

But Erb thinks the integrative medicine can do a better job of teaching people about good health and getting them to change their unhealthy behaviors.

“That’s the ultimate goal of these programs, to really be more effective at promoting health. And if you’re better at promoting health at the individual level, you’re going to be more effective at saving money for the employer,” Erb said. “We’re very confident that we’ll have superior health and economic outcomes.”

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