Health center debuts new waiting room, MRI unit
The Jefferson County Health Center debuted two major changes to the public Wednesday.
The first was a new registration window and waiting room for the JCHC Clinics. The second was a new magnetic resonance imaging unit that saw its first patient that morning.
The day marked the physical merger of the former Medical Arts Clinic P.C. and former Fairfield Clinic P.C. The health center purchased the Medical Arts Clinic in Aug. 2014, then acquired Fairfield Clinic in April 2016 and renamed it JCHC Clinics.
The health center renamed both clinics JCHC Clinics in August of that year after a government inspection. However, they continued to operate with separate offices and separate registration staff and physicians.
Now that the two clinics have not only merged financially but also physically with a shared waiting room and check-in window, all 12 registration staffers can schedule appointments for any of the 19 primary care providers.
JCHC director of clinics Ryan Ford said patients have taken well to the changes, though the health center has needed numerous signs to guide patients in the right direction.
“There is no longer a hallway separating the two clinics,” Ford said. “We have a unified system now with a unified reception and schedulers.”
Ford said all registration staff use one system for viewing medical records. He said the merger of the two clinics did not require any change to phone numbers.
“The new configuration is easier on registration staff and the public, because they will spend less time on the phone waiting to transfer a call,” Ford said. “We feel this provides better access to medical care.”
Ford said the health center is still remodeling the waiting room on the north side, so what patients see today is only about 60 percent of the area the waiting room will be after construction. He said the rest of the waiting room will open this spring.
JCHC community relations manager Wanda Bagby said about the changes, “Our goal is to keep patient care first and foremost, and to help patients get the care they need.”
Paul Burnside, MRI technologist at the health center, used the new MRI machine for the first time Wednesday. Once he has more experience with it, the radiology department should be able to perform nine to 10 MRI scans per day.
Curtis Smith, vice president of ancillary services at the health center, said the MRI machine will be available six hours per day, five days a week. He said the number of scans the radiology department can squeeze in a day depends on the scan; wrist, ankle and knee scans tend to be shorter than shoulder scans.
Until Wednesday, patients who wanted to receive an MRI scan had to go to outside to a mobile MRI truck. The new unit is not only inside but larger, too. The opening is 70 centimeters in diameter, wider than the 60 centimeter openings offered at other health centers.
“People don’t have to experience the weather to use this machine, which is a big selling point,” Smith said. “The new unit will offer a higher resolution scan and a faster exam than the previous mobile unit.”
Smith said he expects high demand for the MRI machine because of its wide bore and because it is radiation free. A computerized tomography (CT) scan, in contrast, uses a low dose of radiation to see inside a patient’s body.
MRI scans are more expensive than CT scans, and patients seeking them must get authorization from health center staff, a common requirement that also applies to medications, surgeries and most elective procedures.
Ford said that patients sometimes want to get an MRI scan right away, especially for back pain. But because of the cost, insurance companies usually require patients to try physical therapy first.