RiverStone Health occupies most of a block on the east side of South 27th Street [in Billings, MT], but it reaches much further. “We focus on family care,” RiverStone CEO John Felton said. “Everything from prenatal care through hospice.” Altogether, RiverStone operates 35 health programs, including some that serve a large region, such as Ryan White Act services for 160 people with HIV/AIDS living in the eastern half of Montana.
Many clients don’t have stable housing, they need groceries or assistance to pay their energy bills. RiverStone case managers assess those social risks and link clients to other community help. This holistic approach to health care pays big dividends for the patients and for the community. Recent multi-state studies by George Washington University found that costs of care in community health centers lowered cost of caring for Medicaid patients by 23 percent and saved between 11 percent and 34 percent on care of Medicare patients. This is remarkable savings considering that community health center users tend to have complex medical problems and unmet basic needs, such as food insecurity or homelessness.
Every square foot of space is in use. Care coordinators work out of a “cupboard under the stairs.” On a tour with Felton, visitors repeatedly stepped aside to allow staff to pass in narrow hallways. With growing demand for care, RiverStone leaders adopted the patient-centered medical home model in which a team cares for each patient. So if the patient’s regular doctor isn’t available on a day that the patient needs care, another doctor on the same team will be.
New clinic space is being designed for efficiency. Pods of exam rooms will provide quick access to all the services (X-ray, for example) that practitioners use. Patient waiting areas will be more private and close to the pod. Children’s play areas will be included. RiverStone plans to build space for staff to provide total patient care without traipsing down long hallways. The new halls will be wider, too. “This hard-wires in the patient-centered medical home,” Felton said. “The whole community benefits when care is provided at the right time at the right place.”
CTA Architects Engineers is designing the new clinic, which will be an addition along South 27th Street. Groundbreaking is expected in August. When finished, the new clinic will have 48 exam rooms, compared with 31 in the present building that will be renovated in the second phase of construction.
For all of us who call Yellowstone County home, this patient-centered public health clinic is an excellent investment in our community. Please support it as much as you can.