Health is a subject we frequently discuss here at AAT because the overall physical well-being of our town indeed has an impact on who we are as a community. If we are not people who are fit and ready to use our skills and gifts to serve one another and help contribute to the progression of Elko, then that could have a negative impact on us as neighbors. As we share the stories, experiences, and sometimes resources of our weekly guests, AAT wishes merely to act as a resource itself where people in need of health-related help (whether it be fitness, nutrition, sleep aid, medical) can hear from people who may be able to assist them. If nothing else, we want to help broaden our reader’s option base when it comes to deciding what’s best for themselves and their family. Today’s guest is no exception to this desire.
This week, we’re joined by Dr.Vacharothone Rachot. Dr. Rachot is the president and CEO of Medallus Healthcare, which opened an urgent/primary care clinic here in Elko back in March of 2018. Along with its current office here in our city, Medallus Medical also operates eight clinics in Salt Lake City, Utah and one in Jamestown, North Dakota. On top of the standard billing of insurance, Medallus also offers its patients a fixed cash price option if they need to come in for a visit. However, it’s Medallus’ monthly membership program that has caught many people’s attention, and we’ll let the doctor explain the details of this initiative a little later on in this article. Now, Dr. Rachot and Medallus are not the first care providers to have a membership program in place. However, as you’ll soon read, Dr. Rachot plans to take this model, and reach out to other private clinics and create a membership network, so people can receive affordable care no matter where they go. Furthermore, he plans on using Elko as the gate to open this plan up into the rest of Nevada.
Now, with all that being said, you know we here at AAT can’t get into the “how” and “what” without first getting to know the “who.” Dr. Rachot, why don’t you tell the Elko community a little about yourself?
“I was born and raised in Thailand. I woke up one day when I was thirteen-years-old, to my mom asking me if I wanted to move to the States and become a doctor. She literally got me packed, picked me up, and flew me over here to live with my aunt; it was three years before I got to see my parents again. I went through high school and then medical school; I ended up likely the field. I came to Utah for eternal medicine training, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to treat chronic disease. I found urgent care (taking care of people with acute injuries and illnesses), and I liked it because I could see the people getting better from our treatment! That made me happy!
“After I finished my training, I thought I’d go work for a hospital or big company. I did that for two years, and I can’t say I liked it. People were always unhappy, and the staff was fighting all the time. I decided I needed to create my own environment, so I could create better results for my patients and staff. I got two medical assistants to leave this practice that belonged to the big hospital system in Salt Lake City, and I went down to Draper, Utah. I took out an equity loan on my home and built out a small clinic. We saw three patients the first day, and six months later, we had almost a thousand visitors. We stuck with being fast and friendly, and we grew to where I could build three clinics in the first three years.”
Wonderful! Now, let’s talk about Medallus’ membership model. What are the details of this program, and from where did this idea come?
“In 2009, I added on primary care and a membership program to my urgent care model. You can become members of my clinic for a low monthly fee (final costs depending on how many individuals you want to enroll), and then you can come to visit my clinic as often as you need, for ten dollars a visit. Whatever procedure someone requires, if we can provide it in the clinic, then it’s already covered in the membership. Our members also have our connections to services in Salt Lake City for patients who require advanced treatment but also need a more affordable option. I didn’t want medical care to be hindered by finance. This model allows people to come in right away, and we have protocols in place to help them get better, faster. We’ve been running the program for nine years, and we’ve had ten thousand members come through; it’s been great!
“The reason why I developed a membership program was that I saw a patient who hesitated before coming in, and when they came in, they were sicker than he should have been. I found out it was because they lost their insurance and knew they would have to pay a lot out of pocket. I wanted to start a program to help out people like them.”
Thank you, Dr. Rachot. The program could prove to be a beneficial option for many people in the community. Speaking of this community, as someone who has come in and gotten to know this town over the past year, what’s your perspective on the Elko area?
“It’s great! We’ve been working out of a big, metro area in Utah, and this is our first small town. We’ve been made to feel welcome, and we feel like we’re supported for what we’re doing here. I came to Elko because I heard patients here end up in the emergency room for simple things but at a really high price. The first place I stopped when I got here was a Sinclair Station. I talked with the person working there; she told me she had to take her daughter to the hospital for a kidney infection, and it costs her seven thousand dollars. I felt bad because I thought about the fact that treatment with us would only cost our members ten dollars! So, we’re here to be another option for the community and to help reduce people’s medical costs.
“Elko is setting an example of a model that I want to take beyond Elko. This is an entrance into Nevada. Nevadans are all facing similar problems; coverage for health care is too expensive, and when they have to buy it themselves, they have to pay more. You see this a lot in bigger cities, like Reno and Las Vegas, because private clinics are becoming less and less. They are being bought out by hospital systems. When Obamacare came in, that gave coverage to twenty million lives, lives the systems didn’t want to help before; now that they have coverage, they’re telling them to come in. So, when patients walk into smaller practices (owned by the hospital systems), they get shipped to the hospital for the same old procedures. Now the people have bills. Elko has given us the ability to enter into Nevada so that we can help more lives.”
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See you around, Elko!