Four years ago, the hospital closed, several physicians either moved away from New Boston or retired, and only two primary care doctors remained in the area. Community leaders were concerned because they didn’t know how residents would receive the medical attention they needed. Then a new facility opened that has helped bridge the gap in healthcare.

CHRISTUS St. Michael opened a Quick Care Clinic in New Boston in August 2011. Located in the former Guarantee Bank storefront in the Walmart shopping center just off I-30, the new clinic is open seven days a week.

The staff at the new facility treats flus, colds, earaches, fevers, strep throat, immunizations, pre-employment physicals and other non-emergency cases, according to Linda Remes, marketing communications coordinator for St. Michael. “The clinic is designed to treat these cases quickly and get you on your way so you don’t spend unnecessary time in waiting rooms.”

“The waiting experience is all relative,” says Ronnie Ryan, vice-president for physician and support services. “I don’t mind waiting at home if I don’t feel well, but I don’t want to sit in a waiting room.” That’s one of the reasons this new quick care model works so efficiently. If everything goes well, Ryan says, patients can be in and out in 15 minutes.

The new facility is staffed by mid-level medical providers like physician assistants, nurse practitioners, medical assistants and radiology technicians rather than physicians, but all are well trained in how to deal with the non-emergent cases that are the clinic’s focus.

Although the new clinic is small, it is spacious, inviting and provides ample space to care for patient needs with four exam rooms, a modern complexity lab and a small radiologist wing.

Prior to the facility being built, St. Michael Hospital in Texarkana received about 11,000 visits from surrounding zip codes that come to the emergency room every year, but about half of those cases only required non-emergent care. “That’s a very expensive way for people to get care,” Ryan says. By visiting the clinic rather than the ER, the patients get the care they need at a fraction of the cost.

The clinic also makes receiving medical care easier than ever before. Now, patients can register online before they ever even step foot in the office, says Remer, a step that saves patients a lot of time they may normally have spent filling out paperwork.

Another great benefit is that the clinic’s digital imaging process is directly linked to the hospital in Texarkana. “So if a patient gets an x-ray in New Boston and has to be sent to Texarkana to see an orthopedic surgeon about a broken bone, the doctor will be able to see the x-ray in minutes,” Ryan said.

What is the future of the clinic? According to Ryan, administrators are currently considering whether or not to expand services to include primary care. “If the clinic continues to do well, we want to work with the community to bring a physician in that would augment what we have there as the quick care model.”

Residents are happy to have the new facility in their community too, which is seen by the number of people who visit the clinic. Just since last August, about 6,000 patients have seen our staff with an average of 20 appointments per day, Ryan said. In the coming year, St. Michael staff hopes that number doubles.