Dr. David M. Lee,, left and Dr. John Carlo

Uptown Physicians and Prism Health NTX form a partnership

DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
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Officials with Uptown Physicians Group and the non-profit Prism Health North Texas this week announced that they are forming a partnership, but for patients and employees, nothing will change.

Doctors and physicians’ assistants from both organizations will continue to work at the same offices in which they’ve worked all along.

No names will change. And patients should call the same number they have always called and will see the same healthcare provider they have been seeing.

While this combination of a non-profit and for-profit to provide community healthcare is a first for Dallas, Legacy Community Health in Houston formed with a similar collaboration between the Montrose Clinic and a general medical practice and now has at least nine clinics across the city and another five across Southeast Texas.

Dr. David M. Lee, founder and president of Uptown Physicians Group, said the idea of working together developed over years of [representatives from both organizations] knowing each other and having the same vision.

Prism Health CEO John Carlo said, “We’ve known each other many years and talked about the challenges of patient care. Patients are having trouble affordable medications.”

Prism Health NTX cares for people with HIV and has a PrEP clinic for HIV-negative clients. Uptown Physicians does general primary care with a specialty in HIV. As Prism has done more preventive care and as Uptown has gained experience with changing insurance coverage, their offices and medical specialties have crossed.

“What’s expected of our patients has increased over the years,” Lee said. “What used to be a $20 co-pay has increased in some cases to $6,000 out-of-pocket.”

Lee gave an example of how the synergy of the two organizations will benefit clients. He said he’s seen a number of patients who were on PrEP but couldn’t afford the preventative medications when they lost their jobs and their insurance. Prism Health NTX has a solution that will keep someone on the HIV-preventive treatment, even during periods of lapses in insurance.

Carlo said his organization has only taken insurance since 2012, while “Uptown is health insurance savvy.”

Carlo and Lee said they’ve been in discussions on coming together in a partnership for more than a year. And making sure there was no disruption in patient care has been their primary issue concern

“We don’t want to fall out of network for a patient,” Lee said. “There are no changes in current networks.”

Carlo called the combination a matter of patient choice, although he doesn’t want patients to change from exactly the same clinic and provider they now use. But as the two groups begin to work together, “we may find better options for certain patients with more complex needs.”

Uptown has nine providers, and Prism has eight plus psychiatry services. Lee suggested in some cases, Uptown patients may benefit from the psychiatry component at Prism, and a Prism patient may benefit from a specialty of an Uptown doctor.

But both agreed: More doesn’t change for patients than does change. Most importantly, patients will see the same doctor at the same location, and the locations will retain their same names.

With the partnership, new services will be added. While North Dallas has at least one CVS or Walgreens on every major corner, South Dallas doesn’t. Carlo said they’re adding a pharmacy to the South Dallas Clinic where there’s not a pharmacy for miles.

While Prism Health NTX has been a community health center for people with HIV, the LGBT community in Dallas has no community health center. Uptown Physicians Group hopes to become that resource.

“Transgender care — together we can tackle that issue,” Lee said, calling the trans community an underserved population. “Trans people drive to us from out-of-state for care.”

Together, Uptown Physicians and Prism Health NTX are building a new prevention clinic on Lemmon Avenue near Central Expressway. People on PrEP need to have a quick check up four times a year; rather than a long wait at a doctor’s office from either side of the new partnership, they can stop by the new prevention clinic for a fast blood draw to check for HIV and other STDs, get any questions answered and then be on their way.

Lee and Carlo expect more business from the prevention clinic to be coming from Dallas County, whose STD clinic on Stemmons Freeway is so busy, they’re turning away 200-300 people a week.

Carlo said clients would be assured of a “quick, efficient visit” with “a good affirming team” they’re putting in place.

Development director Tori Hobbs stressed that the new partners “still need community support.” Although she expects more visits will be covered by insurance, she said that contributions help keep people in care. And more resources mean bringing more uninsured people into care.

Carlo said he was excited about the change as he and Lee began telling their teams about the new partnership last week. He said he’s telling them to be collaborative and solve healthcare problems together.

“Helping our patients is the biggest advantage of this,” Lee agreed.

In the new organization, Carlo is CEO, and Lee is chief strategy officer. And while the move for Uptown Physicians Group from profit to non-profit and for Prism Health NTX to double the providers and resources seems like a huge change, Carlo said, “nothing will change. Current services will continue. Call the same number. Keep the same appointment schedule. See the same provider.”

Lee added that thanks to the new partnership, clients and the community can expect new opportunities for increasing health equities and sharing specialties.