For the Kent Reporter
MultiCare has opened a new, $17.5 million comprehensive family health clinic to replace its facility on State Avenue North.
The community joined MultiCare staff for an open house of the new facility last Saturday.
The 36,000-square-foot clinic – built by Abbott Construction – stands across the street from the original facility on State Avenue. It features expanded spaces for primary care, women’s health, occupational medicine and urgent care. It also houses a new retail pharmacy.
In 2014, a study determined that the older building, which dates to the 1950s, would require significant investment in the coming years. To support the rapidly growing community, MultiCare leadership determined that the most effective long-term approach would be to invest in an all-new facility designed to improve work flows and efficiency for patient care, while also leveraging modern design to reduce facility operating costs. Starting with a new building also eliminated any disruptions to care that upgrading the old facility would have caused, MultiCare said.
Hilton Chen, MD, a family practice physician at the clinic since 2002, said the design of the new facility should have a positive impact on communication and camaraderie among the staff.
The old building will be demolished to make room for additional parking at the new facility.
Bridging the language barrier
Russian. Spanish. Arabic. Punjabi. Somali. For providers and staff at the new clinic, communicating with patients in any of these languages and many more is just another day at the clinic.
Kent, according to a 2017 report, is the third-most diverse midsize city in the country, and by far the most diverse in the state. In 2018 alone, nearly 2,000 patient appointments in the clinic have been conducted so far in languages other than English.
The diversity of the patients has given the Kent clinic a unique challenge in bridging communication barriers to provide care across such a broad spectrum of languages and cultures.
“We have people come in who have been in the country for three days and come to get their kids immunized for school. That’s the kind of situation we are faced with on a regular basis,” said Kathy Dickman, MultiCare Kent Family Practice clinic supervisor.
To support a diverse patient base, all treatment rooms in the new clinic are equipped with real-time video translation capability, using dedicated monitors and cameras to allow patients and translators to see each other. The service translates more than 100 languages, including sign language, and translators can be selected from either gender, which will help the staff provide culturally-appropriate care.
With such an array of languages, keeping a staff of in-person translators simply wasn’t feasible. Using telephonic translations also proved to be challenging in many cases because of the lack of visual and cultural context.
“It’s always been a very diverse community and has gotten more diverse over the last few years,” said Chen, who started at the clinic in 2002.
Although Chen said that in-person translators would be the optimal solution, they simply wasn’t feasible for such a broad variety of languages and cultures. This led the clinic to rely on two key approaches to communicate effectively.
For one, the composition of the clinic’s staff has evolved into highly diverse mix over the years. In fact, multiple providers specifically sought out the opportunity to help care for such a broad group of patients.
Mojgan Mohandesi, MD, is a family practice doctor at the clinic. “I saw different types of clinics but I liked it here because I like the multicultural aspect,” she said. “We are interconnected with different cultures here.”
Chen said having multi-lingual providers with cultural connections helps the patients build trust and form bonds.
“They come to the providers who can relate to them, and often refer their friends and family members,” Chen said. “Word of mouth is huge.”
Millicent Mbue, originally from Kenya, is an advanced registered nurse practitioner at the clinic. She said “once the patient sees or understands that they are from the same country, then there is an instant connection.” She added that having similar cultural backgrounds with patients helps her and other providers provide culturally appropriate care for patients.
But a diverse provider base isn’t a complete solution when dealing with such a broad array of languages, and that’s where technology comes in. The clinic leverages the In Demand video translation service, which uses a California-based pool of interpreters with basic medical backgrounds to connect patients and providers with the click of a button.
Multiple rooms in the clinic have been outfitted with monitors and cameras so patients and translators can see each other.
“We select a language and a gender and a face pops up on the screen on the wall – it’s like they are in the room,” Dickman said.
Although patient populations across the system may not be as diverse as in Kent, MultiCare is still looking to the Kent clinic’s solution as a model for the future as community makeups continue to change.
For more information on MultiCare Kent Clinic providers, services and hours, visit multicare.org.