A Small Healthcare Advance – Right Here in Austin

In my last post, I talked about systems that use healthcare more efficiently. I feel I’ve found a modest version of that, right here in Austin.

It’s called the Victory Medical Center. It’s a clinic with both walk-in and scheduled appointments. While most clinics seem squalid, this one is beautiful and clean, with art, tilework, plush furniture, and a cafe adjoining the waiting room. Another big difference is that, unlike 99% of medical establishments, they’re open evenings and weekends.

The difference for me is palpable. As someone still dealing with medical problems while holding down a full-time job, it makes an enormous difference to be able to go in on a weekend, or late at night after work.

But how do they manage to find doctors to work such odd hours? The short answer is, they don’t. While I think there is always a doctor “on call,” during off hours I’m usually seen by a nurse practitioner or a physician’s assistant. And you know what? I’m fine with that. The dirty little secret of medical care is you really don’t need to be an M.D. to diagnose strep throat, or run a blood test, or suggest checking someone’s thyroid when they’re fatigued. So, the clinic saves on staffing by augmenting its personnel with non-MD’s, and I save on stress by being able to see a medical professional at a time when it’s more convenient for me, rather than at a time when it’s most convenient for the doctor.

It’s so easy, and it works so well, I’m not entirely sure why it hasn’t been replicated elsewhere on a massive scale.

The only real sacrifice is to the idea of prestige in seeing in doctor. As I mentioned earlier, the death of illusions is one of the hardest things in life, and we in the US have an illusion about medical care that is very tied up with money, prestige, and seeing a real MD for even the most basic complaint. As for me, I’ll leave the prestige to someone else to worry about.

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