“It was just like, ‘Wow!
That’s so cool!
That was just crazy!'” says Dr. Mike McFarland, who treated patients with cerebral palsy in the 1980s and 90s.
“The whole hospital had just gotten into it and just started doing it.”
It’s a phenomenon he calls the “Southside Medical Care” model.
Southside Hospital was founded by a group of doctors and nurses in 1993, and has been operating in Texas since 2001.
The system’s patients come in from all over the state.
McFarlands patients, on average, include those with heart disease, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, multiple sclerosis, and multiple sclerosis-related disabilities.
“There are no fees, no bills, no insurance, no paperwork,” he says.
“It’s just a free, non-doctor, patient-centered system.
That’s the beauty of it.”
The system is similar to the one at the University of Texas Medical Branch, which has seen an explosion in its use of technology since 2010.
It’s the only medical center in the state to have built a computerized waiting room.
The patient-centric system is also helping the health system recover from the opioid crisis.
In addition to the patient wait, the health department is also in the process of expanding its emergency room to accommodate more patients.
The new facility at the Southside Medical Center, which opened in 2017, has an expanded capacity of 60 beds, and McFaraves patients will be able to access emergency care from there, too.
It also helps ensure the health care system’s emergency response.
In 2019, the state of Texas enacted a new law that allows the state health department to take on some of the health-care costs associated with the South Side Medical Care system.
The state will reimburse the system $1.5 million annually for the cost of operating the system, which will be paid by the health of the patients.
“We’re not only reimbursing the health agency for the time that it spends with us,” McFarlanders says.
In 2020, the system expanded to include an outpatient waiting room and a specialized emergency room.
Now, he’s hopeful that the health program can be expanded to other areas of the state, which could potentially include more hospitals.
“I just want to see that expanded to the entire state, so that they don’t have to be dependent on just one hospital,” he explains.
Mcfarland says that as the health systems around the state improve, the need for the SouthSide Medical Care is expected to decrease.
“A lot of the facilities we see in the health services are now having to look for ways to keep up with that growth,” he adds.
“You’ll see more hospitals coming in and hospitals will need more staff.”
A new era in health care will come as the economy recovers and as health systems expand.