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New Sanford Clinic to provide same care for patients

The former Great Plains Clinic joined the Sanford network in September but worked to ensure the clinic maintained its familiarity for patients. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press 1 / 3
The former Great Plains Clinic joined the Sanford network in September. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press 2 / 3
The East Sanford Clinic hopes to soon offer most all the same services as the West Clinic, though surgery will remain at the west location. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press3 / 3

Other than the large blue signs now adorning the former Great Plains Clinic, Sanford East patients may not have otherwise noticed the clinic's change in ownership.

Sanford Health bought the clinic in September and has since worked to incorporate the physicians and patients into the Sanford network.

Becky Roshau, now the director of the Sanford Health East Dickinson Clinic, previously worked at the Great Plains Clinic. She said she had not heard of any patients who minded the change.

"They like to be in this building," she said. "They like the familiarity of the building, so what's happening around them is maybe not as noticeable."

Kathleen Koppinger, the senior director of clinics at Sanford Dickinson, said she thought some patients might have initially worried that the clinic would lose some of its consistency but that people were comforted to still see their same physicians.

The switch has also been beneficial for physicians. Dr. Cory Rathgeber, a family medicine physician at the East Clinic, said he prefers the Sanford computer system to their previous one, even though it did take some time to learn and get used to. Sanford offers its staff 24-hour technical assistance, which has been beneficial, he said.

"The electronic medical record is good. The patient care is the same," Rathgeber said. "We still treat the same patients that we have before, and I think we treat them well. I think it's better that we now have a much bigger group of people in the community in terms of our physical colleagues who we are getting to know better, and we have specialists which are fairly easy to access through our electronic medical record and by telephone."

Roshau noted that, from an administrative standpoint, switching to Sanford has allowed her to access a larger pool of people. These people can serve as a resource when she tries to instate new policies at her clinic.

"If there is a new change in health care usually a Sanford department already has the policy set, what we need to do, how we need to handle it, whereas when we were independent, we had to do all that work, all the investigation, and sometimes that wasn't our specialty," Roshau said. "It's nice to have some of those things already written down in policy, in format."

Remodel will lead to greater opportunity

The clinic has room for more doctors in addition to the three physicians and nurse practitioner currently working at the East Clinic, but there will be more of a push to recruit new doctors once the clinic completes its renovation, which is still in its early planning stages. It will consist mainly of interior changes such as new paint and flooring.

Roshau said they would hate to bring in several more staff members and then have to ask them to juggle office space during the remodel. Instead, the clinic will wait for the project's completion and then begin seeking out doctors.

After the remodel, the goal is to offer most of the same services in both clinics, so that patients can receive all their care in one space rather than having to travel across town between locations — though surgeries will only be performed at the West Clinic. Rathgeber said he hopes specialists from Bismarck will visit both clinics, but this idea is on hold until the remodel's completion.

"I think it's a work in progress because we were both separate buildings, and now we have partnered," Roshau said. "Now we are trying to take all those ideas and say what is best for the patient, what's best for the buildings to take care of the patient under a Sanford roof even though they're two different buildings."

Koppinger said they try not to ask patients to visit the other clinic. Though it may only be a mile or so away, she and her staff recognize that this can be trying on people, especially the elderly. However, the two clinics do use one another's schedules daily to ensure patients have options when making appointments. There is also emergency time built into the schedule in case of a severe instance requiring immediate attention.

"It really is an open dialogue between all the resources in Dickinson to get the patient taken care of that day," Koppinger said.

Coming from the west to the east, she said the integration has been a positive process. Great Plains' former administration brought roughly 50 years of experience working in the Dickinson community to Sanford providing an asset to the community, she said.

"I think this was the best move that we could have possibly made, and I think we're all satisfied and happy to be Sanford physicians," Rathgeber said.