By Luke Jenkins
For some, going to the doctor without insurance can be a hassle. Oxford resident and doctor Tom Fowlkes decided to open a clinic to help those people.
“I got the idea to open a clinic for people who cared about what it cost to go the doctor,” said Fowlkes. “I priced a simple office visit at $40 because I figured that was an affordable price.”
Thomas Fowlkes, M.D. Medical Clinic is based on the principle of providing health care that is affordable and paid for at the time of visit. Insurance is not required and is not accepted, with the exception that patients can choose to have tests billed to their insurance.
The clinic has a price list for every service offered. According to nurse practitioner Jason Melton, most patients choose not to have tests billed to their insurance because it is still cheaper to pay for it then and there.
One of the main goals of the clinic is to see its patients quickly after they arrive and not make them wait a long time after being called back. According to Fowlkes, they see about 45 patients a day.
“We don’t make you fill out a lot of paper work when you get here, and because of that, we can see you pretty quickly,” Fowlkes said.
The clinic is essentially a completely paperless office. Using an electronic medical record called Practice Fusion, the clinic keeps all patient files electronically.
“I can see your record or work on your record from home or any computer that is connected to the Internet,” Fowlkes said. “We send all prescriptions to the store you want us to send it to.”
The doctors, however, do not fill in the medical record during the visit. A scribe, a newly created position by the clinic, sits in on the visits and takes notes.
“They basically go in the room with us and listen to what we are telling the patient,” Fowlkes said. “They have to learn to write it down like a doctor would.”
Peyton Lewis is one of four scribes who rotates working two days the entire day. Lewis, who will graduate from Ole Miss in December, says it took a couple weeks for her to get used to the job.
“We had to take a class to get certified,” said Lewis,” but it took a few weeks to figure out what information was relevant and what could be left out.”
The position allows the nurse practitioner or doctor to spend more time with the patient, which is one of their key beliefs of effective health care.
Another aspect that separates this clinic from others is that it does not prescribe medicine for chronic pain or anxiety. Written in big red letters across the front door is: “No cash or controlled substances stored here.”
According to Fowlkes, those drugs become ineffective over time, and sample medicines are expensive. They advise people to buy the cheaper product off the shelves at the stores.
“If we just allowed folks to come in and get a prescription of Lortab or Xanax for $40, we’d have something different on our hands, and we’d probably lose our license,” Fowlkes said.
Fowlkes, who also runs a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, a funeral home, and is the medical director for the Lafayette County Detention Center, said the most frustrating thing is getting people with chronic conditions to care about it early.
“We treat a lot of people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol – stuff that doesn’t necessarily make you feel bad right now – but they have terrible long-term consequences,” he said. “We try to talk to people about how important it is to stop smoking and take medicines.
“Even though we’ve taken away the barriers for people to afford what they need, the number of people who are still non-compliant is high. . . They still don’t take seriously their long-term health (consequences.) You do your best to point these things out, but you can’t force people to take their medicine or stop smoking.”
The clinic recently reached a milestone it had set from its creation – 10,000 patients.
“I told my staff that when we saw 10,000 patients, I would take them all out to dinner,” he said, “so a couple weeks ago, we all went out.”
Melton and Fowlkes are both excited for the future. In the past five years that they have been open, they have seen a wide range of patients. According to Fowlkes, the diversity is about the same as that of the county, and Melton says that they treat all kinds of people, both uninsured and insured workers.
“We see the food and beverage workers from the university who don’t have insurance,” Melton said, “but we also see lawyers and people with really busy schedules who need to just get in and get out, and don’t have time to wait an hour.”
The student attendance is not what Fowlkes expected, but Melton said attendance is on the rise.
The clinic is located at 1914 University Avenue. It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.