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Doctors try to keep focus on the family: clinic spends $1.6 million to expand, promote bedside manner.

Doctors Try To Keep Focus On The Family

Clinic Spends $1.6 Million To Expand, Promote Bedside Manner

Remember the days of small, neighborhood doctors' offices where your physician had taken care of you since you were four years old and you knew everyone in the waiting room?

While that scene may be little more than a distant memory these days, people still welcome personal attention and that gentle bedside touch.

The practice of medicine has changed over the years but some medical clinics still try to project a family atmosphere. These days, however, they're doing it to generate business.

"It's hard to keep a large clinic with a small atmosphere -- that's why we're going to make some changes," says Brian Baker, executive director of Little Rock's Family Clinic.

Despite its appearance and location -- patients refer to it as "that building back behind K-Mart" at Asher and University -- the Family Clinic is thriving and Baker thinks a renovation will make it even better.

Currently, the building lacks a distinctive facade and the double doors in front lead to a cold, impersonal lobby. The whole building "has become somewhat institutionalized," says Bill Asti, the architect hired to remodel and expand the clinic.

Modest Beginning

The Family Clinic began with two doctors in 1962 and now has grown into a multimillion dollar operation. The clinic employs 12 full-time physicians and several part-time doctors who serve a client base of 70,000.

Remodeling is being done on 8,000 of the 13,000 SF and a 16,000-SF second story is under construction at a cost of $1.6 million. In addition, a satellite location is moving from Reservoir Road to Old Forge and also will undergo a $100,000 facelift.

As its client base steadily increased, the clinic moved away from being a strictly family practice and now is the largest multispecialty facility in Little Rock outside of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. The clinic has specialists in gastroenterology, neurology, psychology, allergies and pulmonary diseases.

That's just the reverse of the way some clinics do it -- most move from subspecialties to gradually including family practitioners. However, the Family Clinic's unique perscription has produced such a healthy business that Baker wants to recapture the feel of a caring, personable doctor's office.

Back To Basics

"They have an unbelievable bedside manner," says Asti of the doctors at the clinic. Dr. Charles H. "Shot" Rodgers recently received the Arkansas 1990 Family Physician of the Year award. Dr. Forrest B. Miller has a daily "Health Talk" show on KARN. The clinic has personal and professional physicians, but the building doesn't create a complimentary atmosphere.

Asti was first approached about the expansion/remodeling project three years ago. Once he became involved, he spent months observing and talking with doctors and employees to learn the routine and philosophy of the clinic.

Asti calls this approach "programming. It's so that we understand not just what somebody says is the way it functions, but we understand how it really functions."

Part of the remodeling includes drastically cutting the size of the lobby and creating smaller waiting rooms throughout the clinic. The smaller rooms will be more intimate and efficient and closer to the doctor's offices.

The second story addition actually will be an independent structure and the two buildings will be connected by an elevator and stairs. A new stucco facade will give the two buildings a unified and prominent look.

"The building will have a grandiose nature," Asti explains, "but a more humane relationship the closer and closer you get to the doors."

Marketing Maneuvers

"I think a lot of what they're doing is marketing-oriented," says Ken LaMastus, executive director of the Arkansas Medical Society. "And that's not negative."

LaMastus says the same ingredients of any business operation may be found at the Family Clinic. The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day except Sunday when it's open from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. And, management has made sure that construction hasn't interfered with business.

As the last patient shuffles out each night at closing, construction workers place 14 steel beams throughout the building to support the second story. The completion deadline is June 15 of next year.

The doctors are as hopeful as the construction company that the project is completed on time. The clinic is looking for a cardiologist and two internal medicine specialists, and goals are already being set for the next expansion project.

Family Clinic would like to stay at the Asher and University location because of the strong client base, but that doesn't rule out other satellite clinics in the future.

Total health care is available under one roof, and the Family Clinic is aiming to provide it in a personable way. Doctors here say they'll continue using down-home care to keep their big-city business booming.

PHOTO : WARMING UP: An important part of the Family Clinic remodeling is cutting the size of the "large, inhumane" lobby.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Family Clinic of Little Rock
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Dec 10, 1990
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