Kaiser Permanente’s entrance into Summit County became official on Monday, Jan. 4, with the opening of its new Frisco office.
The finishing touches were still being put onto the brand-new medical facility across from the Whole Foods Market in the Basecamp retail center when the doors of the modern, window-laden and wood-accented building were unlocked to members for the first time at 8:30 a.m. A blue, heavy construction aerial lift near the entrance laid dormant by the building’s second story, step ladders were strewn about inside and construction workers continued hammering away installing wiring and double-checking lighting. The commotion did not dampen the excitement to finally begin welcoming patients, of which two total took advantage.
“We’re really excited to join this community,” said Dr. Patricia Dietzgen, DO, at present the office’s only full-time physician. “Most of us are local, living in Frisco, Dillon, Silverthorne and Breckenridge. We can’t wait.”
Kaiser announced the new mountain office, coupled with one in Edwards that also opened on Monday, in June. Construction and the groundwork for staffing the two facilities was soon under way with Deitzgen, and Dr. Jeannine Benson, MD, at the Edwards location, named to the posts in November.
The 6,000-square-foot Frisco office, located at 226 Lusher Ct., features some of the latest technologies in the world of medicine and patient care, all part of Kaiser’s push toward staying ahead of the curve. Upon entering the upstairs waiting room, members of Kaiser’s network will instantly notice a patient registration desk that includes two electronic kiosks not unlike those at an airport check-in, allowing staff immediate access to each individuals’ electronic medical record.
Once logged into the system, a patient is taken to a room where vitals such as weight, blood pressure and oxygen levels will be procured. From there, it’s off to one of six on-site examination rooms, four of which serve routine medical visits, another for specialty care with one of the health-care provider’s monthly group of rotating physicians and one designated for procedures such as minor surgery. Each has a negative suction airflow to pull potential airborne germs from the room and depositing them outdoors, in addition to prompt access to the patient’s electronic medical chart system-wide.
“As medicine has gotten so complicated, it’s nice to have tools at the beside to help providers meet the critical needs of patients,” said Dr. Mark Carvalho, MD, Kaiser’s vice president of external relations. “It kind of helps catch the gaps.”
The exam rooms also have expandable exterior walls should future changes in medical technology call for a retrofit to meet updated patient or provider needs. The wing includes a back service room as well that provides both patients and staff an area for video physician visits, what Kaiser refers to as Telehealth, via a wall-mounted flat screen television.
“We’re always on the cutting-edge of technology as it relates to the medical field,” said Brent Bowman, executive director of Colorado’s mountain service area for Kaiser. “It’s who we are. We’re trying to move toward less brick-and-mortar care so we can meet patients where they’re at, and that’s especially critical in the mountain region where there’s inclement weather and transportation issues.”
“It’s one more tool to bring specialty care to the mountains,” added Carvalho. “In these rural communities, you have to come with a new paradigm for care and think of some novel ways to do it.”
The facility includes its own X-ray room for digital imaging, a collaborative space where multiple members of staff may meet and will also add an on-site pharmacy down the road as patient demand requires it. In the meanwhile, prescriptions may be obtained by mail order or through Kaiser’s network of pharmacies.
Aside from mountain-region relationships already established with Colorado Mountain Medical in Eagle County, Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, Frisco-based pediatrician Dr. Christine Ebert-Santos, MD, and Breckenridge-based OB/GYN Dr. Andrew Catron, MD, at Swan Mountain Women’s Center, Kaiser plans to bring on another full-time primary care physician at the Frisco office in August. That’s on top of the rotating list of specialists in cardiology, dermatology, neurology and oncology, among others.
Still, the virtual service may end up being a larger part of patients’ visits in Frisco than they might anticipate due to logistical necessity from the lack of particular types of care at certain points in time or the level of urgency of a medical need. Kaiser, for example, does not currently have in-network emergency care in the region given the Centura Health-run St. Anthony Summit Medical Center is the only hospital in Summit County. For now, in a non-emergency situation, Kaiser will foot the bill for its expanding mountain membership and transport patients down to Denver and back, including overnight hotel stay for them and a caregiver, when none of its local resources fit a patient’s needs.
“This is a starting point for us,” said Bowman, “and we continue to expect what our network of providers looks like to change. We’re uncompromising on affordability and will continue partnerships with the local medical community but will do so in an affordable way.”
The days of operation and hours for the new Kaiser Frisco office are as follows: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Wednesday: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Kaiser Permanente Colorado members may also call (970) 207-7171 for 24-hour medical advice.