On Monday, July 3, Dr. John Opilka’s new 19,000-square foot medical office began seeing its first patients. The new facility gives his ever-expanding practice the room it needs, while offering growth opportunities for both his business and the community at-large.
Opilka said that his former family practice office on Third Street had been too small for nearly 15 years. Through a partnership with Rural Health Illinois alone, he has added at least 500 patients each of the past four years. The 3300-square foot facility on North Third didn’t provide the room for staff to care for their existing patients, let alone new ones.
Though the need was obvious, the process of building, and how exactly to do it, was not an easy, or short, one.
Nurse practitioner and nurse manager Kim Burgess said she has worked for the Altamont Clinic for seven years and the new facility has been talked about for six. Once a site was selected and a floor plan drawn up, Burgess was tasked with figuring out how to maximize the efficiency of the 5500-square foot office and plan for patient care.
“I’ve walked through this building weekly for four months,” she said.
She added that she would take staff members through to gauge their opinions on her plans and gather ideas. Burgess added that she also toured other facilities to see how they used their buildings. She said she spent nearly two years conducting research to identify best practices for everything from patient flow to where to place paper towel dispensers.
Burgess explained that a colored flags on the outside of the doors will be used to keep everyone on the same page. To ensure a smooth transition, this was implemented by staff in the previous building.
To prepare for the opening, Dr. Opilka invited family members of his employees to come through the facility as mock patients on the morning of Monday, July 3. This gave staff the opportunity to work through any bugs in their planned processes.
Real patients began walking through the front door at 1 p.m. that day, but at a lighter rate than they will on a normal day. This affords the staff the opportunity to gain a better grasp on the new processes.
Opilka said that his vision was not simply a new medical office for his practice, but a medical facility that could offer a variety of services to the area. Planning to use 5500 of the 19,000 square feet available for his own purposes, he knew he would have plenty of room for ancillary services. As his plans developed, he began hearing from organizations interested in partnering with him. Kremer Pharmacy, Weber Optiks, LabCorp, HSHS St. Anthony’s occupational, physical, and speech therapy and lab services, in addition to X-ray and ultrasound services will be available on location. Some services will be run through Dr. Opilka’s front desk, while others will have separate entrances. One does not have to be a patient of Dr. Opilka’s practice to utilize the services. He hopes that most of these services will be open to the public by mid-July.
Dr. Opilka said that these services not only offer patients convenience, but actually improve care. He cited a finding that only 50 percent of patients ever receive requested lab work. He said it was very common to discuss a blood draw and work-up with a patient, get their approval, send off for the tests, and never hear anything back. The patient would never go to the hospital for the test. With the lab on-site, he expects that 50 percent number to go up dramatically, which will lead to better patient outcomes.
LabCorp will house its regional distribution center in the basement level of the building.
Community education will be offered through the joint efforts of HSHS St. Anthony’s and Dr. Opilka. A community room was built with the goal of providing on-going classes on health topics such as weight loss and diabetes. The goal is for classes to begin in August.
To bring a project like this together, a team is certainly needed. The building was designed by architect Sandra Walk and built by Swingler Construction. The City of Altamont and Dr. Opilka’s corporate office worked on aspects of the project. Representatives from Weber Optiks, Kremer Pharmacy, LabCorp, and St. Anthony’s had to consult on the plans. But Burgess said that the team of medical professionals at the Altamont Clinic was, and continues to be, vital to the success of the project.
“The team we have right now is the reason we were able to do this,” she remarked. “There’s not a single staff member who didn’t help.”
For more information on Dr. Opilka’s family medical practice, visit the clinic website at www.mimcamed.com/altamontclinic.html