Phyllis Truitt, 80, knew she needed to find medical care closer to her Arlington home after her husband’s death in September. In the past, the couple had good health and didn’t mind traveling two hours to a familiar hospital in Temple for yearly physicals.
But picking a new doctor nearby wasn’t easy. She found long wait times for appointments or refusals to take on more Medicare patients. So she turned to the Internet and stumbled upon something brand new — a Texas Health Your Health Center in Arlington.
The Texas Health Resources clinic at 616 Matlock Centre Circle is staffed by an advanced practice registered nurse, also known as a nurse practitioner, and caters specifically to senior citizens and Medicare patients. The initiative is a joint effort with Texas Health Physicians Group.
Officials say the clinic is a way to address the need for additional care in areas with high Medicare patient populations.
“There is just a feeling of personal interest, of thoroughness,” Truitt said of the new clinic, where initial appointments with nurse practitioner Vanessa Murphy last an hour. “I found that I could be accepted for an appointment quite readily, and when I came in I was really impressed with Vanessa.”
A nurse practitioner provides nonemergency acute care and chronic-condition management and coordinates with an off-site physician who serves as medical director for the clinic. The model allows more time to talk about concerns and plan for a healthy lifestyle. Same-day appointments are available if needed.
Other Texas Health Your Health Centers geared toward seniors opened in Burleson in July and in Plano in October. More locations may open if officials see a need.
Texas has more than 3.6 million Medicare-covered patients, according to federal statistics, and that number increases each month. At the same time, a recent study by the physician-search firm Merritt Hawkins ranked Texas 47th for its available access to physicians.
James Parobek, senior vice president and chief operations officer at Texas Health Physicians Group, said the Your Health Center model will keep seniors healthier and save healthcare dollars.
“Improving access and convenience to care will allow for individuals to be seen at the onset of an illness with the goal of stopping it from developing into an illness requiring hospitalization,” he said by email. “Also, following a hospitalization, these clinics offer follow-up care that will ensure readmissions to the hospital will be decreased. The monitoring of chronic conditions and medication management is a significant need for this population, and these clinics will help meet these needs.”
The centers are built with seniors in mind — from hallways and exam rooms wide enough for wheelchairs and walkers to exam tables that can be lowered so that patients don’t have to step up. Forms are also printed in larger fonts for easy reading.
Murphy, the nurse practitioner at the Arlington location, said the new clinic is a great environment for treating the whole person and fulfilling the needs of older patients. The location may add more nurse practitioners in the future. A medical assistant and office assistant are already on board.
“The Medicare patients are the whole reason I became a nurse practitioner,” said Murphy, recalling her experience in clinics with crowded waiting rooms where seniors sat for hours and doctors weren’t able to spend much time in appointments.
Her work is focused on improving life as much as extending it.
“I think our best thing we offer here is we allow time to take care of everything,” Murphy said. If a physician is only able to give five minutes, they can’t take care of everything.
“There are some things we can’t fix, but we can at least discuss options for improvement. It’s about quality of life.”
Truitt is already seeing a change for the better. She came to Murphy in October worried about a weight loss after her husband’s death. The nurse practitioner talked to her about the hard-hitting effects of grief and recommended ways to stay healthy. By December, Truitt was relieved to register a 5-pound weight gain.
Though her relationship with the clinic has been short, it’s already warm and reassuring, Truitt said. “I’m just glad I ran into them.”