More than 1,000 patients a year make their way to the doctors and dentists at Friends in Need, a Kingsport clinic that serves the working uninsured at little to no cost.
They take pride in not only providing affordable medical and dental treatment, but also in establishing the kind of ongoing doctor-patient relationships that improve health outcomes.
“Normally at clinics, people show up when they are in pain; it’s an urgent care approach,” says Bruce Sites, president of Friends in Need.
“In the past year, we have enforced a continuing care policy, so that all involved in a patient encounter try to get at the root cause of any medical or dental problem.”
Somebody who comes in to see a dentist will get a complete dental exam.
In addition to filling cavities or performing root canals, the clinic provides cleaning, and gives patients dental floss, toothpaste and instructions to brush twice a day.
That’s a normal trip to the dentist, but at Friends in Need, they request active participation in return:
Any patient who skips an appointment twice in a row gets disqualified from future treatment.
They do the same for medical appointments.
“It’s tough love,” says Sites.
“But we need that if we are going to make any progress toward meeting the needs of the community and offering continuing care.
“Everyone has adapted to this now, and we are seeing the impact.”