TRAVERSE CITY — Doug Spence and Mike Carroll are trying something a little different when it comes to northern Michigan healthcare.
The two family practice physicians own the successful Creekside Clinic enterprise headquartered on West Front Street. In the last three years the doctors implemented an expansive business model that takes healthcare to their patients by opening a string of small clinics in communities throughout the Grand Traverse region.
Spence and Carroll believe expanding into small communities makes a trip to the doctor’s office more convenient and personal.
“It’s getting harder to drive through town,” Carroll said. “It’s harder to park around our clinic on Front Street. People are living further away. We thought, ‘Let’s change the model a little bit.’”
The business partners started the enterprise with the Creekside Clinic mainstay on West Front in 2005. They opened clinics in Lake Leelanau in 2011, Acme in 2012, Blair Township near Chum’s Corner in 2013 and Northport in January this year.
They said the closeness of clinics to patients homes is a popular feature, especially in communities like Northport and Lake Leelanau, where patients might otherwise face long commutes.
“As a doctor, we are often overwhelmed with the new requirements from insurance companies, the amount of medications, the amount of tests people are having and, frankly, sometimes, the amount of times people need to be seen,” Spence said. “In taking the team approach, it gives us more time with the patient when they are in.”
Carroll said northern Michigan’s demographics, with its growing senior and overall population, is an exciting prospect. He sees small clinics like those offered at Creekside as a future trend in the industry. Creekside is open to more clinics in the region’s rural areas.
“One of the things about breaking out of the big clinic atmosphere is that this isn’t just the medical profession -- it’s the service industry and the relationship business,” Carroll said. “It’s all about the relationship (with the patient) and that’s a little bit easier in the smaller clinic. “It has made a lot of practical sense, but in some ways the smaller clinics … make it more personal.
“The patient comes in, they see my dogs, they know the name of the front office employee,” Carroll said. “That’s what it’s all about.”