By Alexander Germanis
Few things can be as disheartening as feeling lost or like you are in the wrong place. Unfortunately, this has become an all too common feeling in the medical world. Navigating the quagmire of health insurance is often only complicated by literally navigating the ever-expanding healthcare structures.
Knowing there is someone who not only understands the difficulties of getting around in the increasingly confusing world of healthcare but also wants to help guide their patients through it can be more than stress relieving, it can be life saving.
McLean County Orthopedics (MCO) has been a staple of the Bloomington/Normal area for over four decades and with a new chief executive officer and a new location, they plan to be a contributing, healing presence in Central Illinois for a long time to come.
Over the last year or so, McLean County Orthopedics has been going through several transitions. Not only have they established a new home on Trinity Lane just a little further east from their old home on Empire in Bloomington, they have brought a new man onboard to help bring the practice in line with their new surroundings and with the changing landscape of healthcare.
CEO Jim Schaefer will always be a Midwesterner at heart. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and earning his undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he then earned his masters of science in health administration from the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
“I spent about 27 years in Northeast Mississippi and Northwest Alabama, helping build a large, integrated, multi-specialty network to serve a wide rural market, that included outpatient services, ambulatory surgery centers, diagnostic imaging, as well as a comprehensive cancer center,” Jim shares. “The network was centered around private physician groups — I ultimately left because the culture of the organization changed when a large health system acquired controlling interest in the outpatient centers.” Jim then began his journey back to the Midwest, taking a position with HSHS Medical Group in Springfield, IL, where he served as Executive Director of Operations.
When MCO started looking for a new CEO, Jim decided to make the change. “I was really looking for an opportunity to move back into a private system and this was that opportunity,” he says. “There are not many private groups today that are of a specialty such that they can remain independent. Most of the health systems are employing primary care physicians and hard-to-recruit specialties. Orthopedics and physical therapy are still those areas that work well independently but collaboratively with the hospital systems.”
While MCO has found itself in a new home, its CEO has likewise found a new home in MCO, where he plans to become a lasting part of the community.
Familiar faces in new spaces
Not everyone may understand why MCO decided to build and move to a new facility, but as Jim explains, the advantages of their new surroundings are more about creating a better experience for their patients.
“This is a wonderful facility; I think it represents the practice very well,” he says. “It allows our patients to have some sense of privacy when they come in yet are still comfortable. It is quieter.”
Many people in close quarters breeds not only noise but also confusion and raises stress levels. Going to the doctor can be a stressful enough experience as it is, so to alleviate some of that is a key to better overall experiences, not just for the patients but the staff as well.
That staff is led by a number of surgeons with varying specialties: Drs. Paul Naour and Craig Carmichael are MCO’s pain management physicians; Dr. Jerome Oakey specializes in the hand, wrist and elbow; Drs. Joseph Novotny, Mark Hanson, Joe Norris, and Joe Newcomer are general orthopedic surgeons with extensive experience in treating a variety of musculoskeletal injuries, as well as hip and knee replacements.
“Dr. Nikhil Chokshi does a lot of specialty and replacement revision in addition to general orthopedics,” Jim continues. “Dr. Shaun Kink started with us in September following completion of his fellowship training at Harvard, and is our foot and ankle specialist. Dr. Lucas Armstrong (general orthopedics) has been here three years and is the newest partner with the group. Several of our surgeons work extensively with our athletes as well — Dr. Joe Newcomer, Dr. Joe Norris, and Dr. Luke Armstrong.”
More programs, more time
Often, when people think of orthopedics they think of orthopedic surgery. While surgery may be necessary in many cases, MCO extensively focuses on prevention of injury in the first place. “MCO providers and physical therapists volunteer time to work with some of the school and community athletic programs to assess the risks associated with certain sports disciplines, and design warm-up and stretching exercises to help prevent injury,” Jim states.
“We’ve also got pretty extensive relationships with Method Sports Performance and the Center for Integrated Wellness, both located within the facility on Trinity Lane,” he continues. “Our Return to Play program focuses on our athlete patients who have been injured — by the time they’re finished going through diagnostics, treatment, and therapy, they are often in better condition and better able to play their sport than they were prior to their injury. This same concept is being extended to active adults through our Return to Life initiatives — not just for the weekend warrior, but also for people who want to retain or regain an active lifestyle.”
Also at MCO is post-surgical acute rehabilitative care through physical therapy, aquatic therapy — which works extremely well for joint replacement patients — and occupational therapy.
Open from 6:00am to 6:30pm, Monday through Thursday, and Friday from 6:00am to 4:30pm. MCO Rehabilitative Services is also open on Saturdays from 7:00am to 11:00am, and is considering expanding those hours, too. “We are looking at ways we can be more accommodating to our patients,” Jim adds.
Accommodation comes in the form of access as well, with onsite digital x-ray being only one of the conveniences. “We have the best open MRI in the area,” Jim says. “Our open MRI is less intimidating for patients than a conventional closed-bore unit and provides fantastic diagnostic resolution. With its own separate entrance that gives direct access to the check-in for the MRI, you can park conveniently near the door, come straight in, get your MRI done, and you’re out of there.” MRI hours have recently been expanded for patient convenience as well. Our first appointment, Monday through Friday, is at 6:00am with the last appointment at 6:05pm, and on Saturday, we start at 6:00am and our last appointment is at 3:15pm.
Having all their staff in one building is another advantage to the new MCO site, which translates to better convenience for patients. “If our patients have questions about insurance coverage, we can get the insurance companies on the phone while they’re here,” Jim says. The billing department and financial counselors are also on site to help patients deal with any costs not covered by their insurance carriers.
MCOvertime Injury Clinic
One of the unique aspects of MCO is their overtime injury clinic. It allows extended access to care, especially during those hours when most sports and musculoskeletal related injuries are likely to occur: the evenings and the weekends.
“The Overtime Injury Clinic especially allows our young athletes in the junior and high school programs, as well as the independent football, soccer, and gymnastics programs, to take advantage of a walk-in arrangement when they might be injured on a weekend or during the evening,” Jim explains.
Now open from 2pm to 7pm, Monday through Friday and from 9am to 12pm on Saturday, the clinic will be expanding its hours in the near future. “This way,” Jim points out, “we will probably get less of a concentration of patients at a given time because they have more options.”
There will be more on the MCOvertime Injury Clinic in an upcoming article.
Positive patient experience
Happy to be back in the Midwest where he belongs, Jim could not be happier about being at MCO. “The focus on patient care is so intense from everyone here,” he shares. “The physicians, advanced practice clinicians, the physical therapists and all of the employees of MCO are so focused and empathetic toward the needs of our patients. We’re really proud of what we are able to provide here.”
“I really feel privileged to be part of a team of doctors and employees who are so dedicated to what they do and so focused on the quality of the care they provide to patients,” he continues. “I think everyone at MCO genuinely has a heart for service. That, to me, shows through in the type of care and interaction we have with our patients and why they enjoy coming back,” Jim laughs, “as much as you can enjoy coming back to a healthcare provider.”
For more information or to schedule an appointment, you may contact McLean County Orthopedics at 309-663-6461.
They are located at 1111 Trinity Lane in Bloomington.