A new concept in health and wellness for Cowley County is open for business and already expanding its offerings.

Cowley HealthWoRX is a Direct Primary Care clinic located on the South Central Kansas Medical Center campus at 6403 Patterson Pkwy. in Arkansas City.

Initially, the clinic only was open to employers and their employees. However, after a successful first month of operations, the clinic is expanding its offerings to the general public.

“Things are going smoothly,” said Cherie Bahm, advanced practice registered nurse for Cowley HealthWoRX.

“We have been seeing patients for health risk assessments, as well as urgent care visits, and now we are ready to start seeing families and individuals that might be interested in our service.”

Cowley HealthWoRX’s sister clinic in Garden City is largely employer driven, meaning it is designed to be offered as a benefit to a company’s employees with no out-of-pocket deductibles or office visit co-pays for individuals covered through the program.

While employer plans will be the cornerstone of the Ark City office, the staff thinks there is a clear need for personal plans, too.

“The situation in Cowley County is that access to primary care is sometimes difficult. This is especially true during the seasonal times of flu, when people just can’t get in to (see) any provider,” said Virgil Watson, SCKMC’s chief executive officer.

“That is our competitive edge, that we will see almost all patients within 24 hours of you notifying us that you need to be seen.

“Hopefully, that opens up another avenue where people consider buying a membership to Cowley HealthWoRX so that they can have access within 24 hours.”

The Cowley HealthWoRX business strategy is based on the thought that because there are no co-pays or deductibles for the members, it is more likely that patients not only will receive treatment earlier, but also take advantage of preventative services such as annual physicals, personal health improvement plans and chronic condition management for such issues as diabetes, obesity or tobacco addiction.

“I think this is a wonderful and incredible opportunity for both the hospital and the community,” Bahm said.

“I’ve learned a lot about the patients I am working with. A 30-minute visit gives us adequate time to have a basic overview of where they are at with their life right now. I’m very fortunate and excited to be part of this changing culture of health care.”

The majority of Bahm’s patients have health insurance, but don’t use it because of high co-pays and deductibles. This creates a snowball effect problem for employers providing the health insurance.

With a lack of ongoing health care, the patients’ health becomes increasingly worse, eventually reaching a point where treatment is more difficult and comes at a higher cost.

The higher health care costs then are reflected in increased premiums by the insurance companies.

Carmine Di Palo is chairman and chief executive officer of Revere Healthcare Solutions Inc., the firm that has partnered with SCKMC to create Cowley HealthWoRX.

He has seen firsthand how Direct Primary Care can reverse the “insurance snowball” if used by employees and their families.

“As the employee population becomes healthier, insurance claims go down and the combination allows employers more leverage when negotiating their insurance premiums, potentially saving hundreds of thousands of dollars over time,” he said.

Employers interested in learning more about the Direct Primary Care clinic should contact Watson at South Central Kansas Medical Center by calling (620) 442-2500.

Individuals interested in personal or family memberships should call Cowley HealthWoRX at (620) 441- 5711.

This information was provided by South Central Kansas Medical Center Marketing Director Clayton Pappan.