Oak Street Health has been in Bronzeville for less than a month and its popularity is already growing, said Nia Scruggs, clinic administrator.
The building, 4318 S. State St., opened its doors to the community on Sept. 23. Scruggs said Oak Street caters to the 65 and older population and the staff strive to make patients feel comfortable. They go out of their way to accommodate them. From being offered coffee or tea, to getting a free ride to and from, Oak Street is doing everything it can to help the community.
“We want this to be their second home,” said Scruggs.
That is evident from the large, decorative community room that takes the place of the traditional waiting room. Patients can drink coffee, watch TV, read or get on computers, while they wait for their name to be called.
Taking care of health related needs isn’t all that they offer though. The clinic provides free educational workshops, activities and even social events.
“Beyond their medical expertise, I am impressed that this facility is designed as a social environment with features such as big screen televisions, activities like bingo and a computer lab with tutorials for seniors,” said Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd Ward) in a press release.
Scruggs said that creating a social atmosphere is important because health is more than just physical.
“We believe that good healthcare is not only your medical health, but it’s also mental, it’s also social, it’s also dental, so those are some of the things we do differently here,” said Scruggs.
Oak Street Health centers tries to work with their Medicare-eligible residents on all levels. They also offer them primary care and dental services. The new center will fill 35 full-time positions and serves more than 2,500 seniors in the community. The organization anticipates that there will be more than 150 employees by the end of the year and they will hire an additional 200 in 2015.
Their focus on comfort and making visitors feel welcome sets Oak Street Health apart from the typical doctor’s office.”
Oak Street Heath has a total of seven locations. Scruggs said the Bronzeville location was added because there was a need. Before any of their clinics open in a community, board members meet with the local alderman and other community leaders. This ensures that the health clinic is truly in tune with the community’s needs and demographics. The Bronzeville branch provides free transportation for its patients. Scruggs said that is a huge barrier for many, especially when the weather gets bad.
Besides making sure the patients are comfortable, Oak Street Health staff and physicians dedicate their time to new patients. The Welcome Visit is for first-timers and they get to sit down with an insurance specialist, who will explain any billing questions or concerns. They also get a rare opportunity to spend quality time with their doctor, a medical assistant and a nurse.
“The average time that a patient gets to spend with a physician is about 12 to 15 minutes, our average time is about half and hour to 40 minutes,” said Scruggs.
“It’s all about getting to know our patients and developing a relationship with them so they’ll want to come back and see us,” she said.