Responding to Patient Needs in Twin Ports
When Lake Superior Community Health Center (LSCHC)—a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) serving the Twin Ports area—received a grant from the state of Wisconsin for chronic pain management, they reached out to Kara McGillivray, DC, CCST ‘94.
“I was quite happy in private practice,” shared Dr. McGillivray. “I never thought about making a change.” That same week, she and her husband Dr. Greg McGillivray ‘95, DC were approached by a practice broker about selling their practice, and she decided it was the time for change.
Building a Program from the Ground Up
Dr. McGIllivray was charged with launching a new chiropractic program from scratch, during the height of the pandemic. “We opened on June 8, 2020 in the height of COVID with a full schedule of new patients,” she shared. “Our biggest challenge was internet and phone services working only intermittently and sometimes not at all. We were trying to open our doors with people unable to reach the practice to schedule appointments.”
In response, Dr. McGillivray had to get creative “literally going door to door” leaving information in breakrooms and schools and talking to anyone she could. It worked. There are now four chiropractors practicing in the LSCHC system, including NWHSU grads Dr. Greg McGillivray and Jason Bramstedt, DC ‘99.
“It’s remarkable that we’ve grown that fast,” remarked Jessie Peterson, CEO of LSCHC. “I attribute it to Drs. Kara and Greg McGillivray’s drive and momentum. I’m just trying to keep up with their sprint. We’re just trying to innovate and respond to the needs of patients.”
Ensuring All Patients Have Access to Chiropractic
FQHCs provide care to everyone who needs it, regardless of insurance or ability to pay. Two-thirds of LSCHC patients are defined as below the poverty level. LSCHC approaches healthcare from a wide lens: offering primary care, mental health services, dental care, chiropractic care, a food pantry, and more.
“It’s the way healthcare should be provided,” explained Lee Homan, COO of LSCHC. “For example, the food pantry is not a traditional thing offered in a medical practice, but when you think about the impact of hunger on health outcomes, it’s really valuable.”
For Dr. McGillivray, chiropractic care is an important piece of the equation. “We can offer the most effective, conservative treatment for spinal health care that is desperately needed,” she explained.
“While medical care, behavioral health, and dentistry cover a lot of ground, chiropractic care fills a huge void in the system while remaining complementary to the rest of the disciplines.”
Being integrated into the FQHC means that communication between the chiropractors and other disciplines is streamlined and ensures that all patients have access to chiropractic care and ancillary services—including spinal decompression therapy, rehab and other modalities — through sliding scale payments and Medical Assistance coverage.
Changing Perceptions and Working Together
One surprise for Peterson was how the chiropractors have been embraced by the other providers. “There were questions as to why we needed to add chiropractic care when we first considered it,” she shared. “Now the other services see the benefit and enjoy referring patients to that service line. It really helps to reinforce that integrative care model.”
The other providers aren’t the only ones reacting positively to the addition. “Kara and Greg have unanimous five-star reviews on Google. I think that speaks for itself,” said Homan. “I’ve worked in healthcare marketing for a long time I’ve not seen an office that has exclusively five-star reviews.”
A Success Story that Continues to Grow
Has integrating chiropractic care into LSCHC helped address chronic pain as originally hoped? According to Medical Director Emily Anderson, MD, the answer is a resounding yes.
“The integration of chiropractic services under our roof has improved our chronic pain management, helped streamline timely interventions for patients, and overall helped round out our care to help people improve their well-being,” she explained. “It is a great relief as a medical provider to be able to offer alternatives to pain medications. Across the board, we are prescribing less and coordinating care more.”
What’s next? LSCHC is opening a new location in Carlton, MN this spring, with chiropractic care and dental. “Chiropractic is our fastest growing service line,” shared Homan. “Demand outstrips supply, and there’s clearly a gap there. Our role as an FQHC is filling those gaps.”