In a strange twist of fate, the story of The Portland Clinic’s centennial is actually bookended by two devastating pandemics. When Oregon’s first private, multidisciplinary medical clinic opened to patients in 1921, the public was still picking up the pieces following the ravages of the Spanish flu. Fast forward to today: as the clinic celebrates its 100-year anniversary, the fight against COVID-19 continues to threaten our local communities.
When the need was greatest over the past century, the providers at The Portland Clinic time and again demonstrated incredible courage in caring for the sick and the injured, saving as many lives as possible. It was no different when the first cases of coronavirus, and all of the accompanying uncertainty and fear, reached the Pacific Northwest.
While the governor and health authorities planned for quarantines and shutdowns, the clinic quickly problem-solved to guarantee that patients would continue to have access to essential care. “We needed only to reflect that the doctors and staff members who came before us served Portland through the Depression, World War II, the social unrest of the ’60s, and even the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980,” says The Portland Clinic’s CEO, Dick Clark. “We’d faced challenges before, and we could do it again.”
In just two weeks, leadership teams helped staff initiate a telemedicine program, utilizing the latest technologies to maintain that crucial connection between providers and patients. Other familiar changes were implemented to help flatten the curve, including wearing masks, physical distancing, temperature checks, and coronavirus testing.
Midway through May 2020, the clinic’s branches had conducted 12,317 telemedicine visits, compared to 5,425 in-person visits—representing a clear turning point for the outlook of care. “Looking back,” says Clark, “I’m so proud of our staff for starting and delivering, in such a short time, a program that normally would take months, and that was enthusiastically accepted by patients and providers. That was one of the highlights of our COVID-19 response.”
It just so happens that the clinic’s current chief medical officer, Amy Mulcaster, D.O., began her tenure right at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in April 2020—a difficult first few weeks on the job, by any measure. Nevertheless, her innovative leadership remains perfectly suited to guide The Portland Clinic out of these tough times and on to its next chapter.
“We’ve shown in the past year that we can face tough challenges, make decisions, and execute them to continue to do what we do best, which is to take care of our patients,” Dr. Mulcaster says. “I am proud of how our clinic has evolved in the last decade and of the role the clinic has played in caring for our community for a century. I look forward to contributing to the leadership of our organization to help navigate the future of our clinic.”
Advancing modern medical care is certainly part of the DNA of The Portland Clinic. In 2018, the group’s newest branch, The Portland Clinic–Northeast, welcomed patients to a new building, constructed with Lean design principles in mind. There, waiting rooms are a thing of the past. Instead, almost all care happens in a single, spacious exam room—no stepping out into the hall to be weighed or venturing even further for lab work.
Behind the scenes of this streamlined experience, open work pods facilitate improved communication among providers. Patients who call the clinic for information, rather than appointments, are quickly assisted by a call center operated by nurses and medical assistants. Efficient staff “huddles” reduce time-consuming meetings and emails, allowing more time for face-to-face patient interaction. And on the ground floor, a modern, nutrition-focused grocery store, Basics Market, increases the synergy between medicine and dietary wellness.
To meet the growing need of Portland’s expanding neighborhoods, these enhancements will likely be incorporated at the clinic’s other existing offices and new locations in the future.
As The Portland Clinic marks its first 100 years of serving the Portland metro area, it continues to build on a solid foundation, beginning the next century of service with confidence, optimism, and the certainty that whatever the future brings, The Portland Clinic will be here to care for the community.