Curious about the newly-opened Compass Healthcare Clinic just west of the intersection of Pine and 26th, I talked earlier this week with health providers Cassie Gonzales and Alisha Ashley, both of whom are APRNs (Advanced Practice Registered Nurse) and CNPs (Certified Nurse Practitioner). The third health provider is Dr. Scott Exum, M.D. I was impressed. My mission: To see what they are doing to live up to the clinic’s slogan — “Changing the Direction of Healthcare.” Indeed they are.

Downs: What led you to open the Compass Healthcare clinic in Arkadelphia?
Gonzales: “First of all, some might think that we are trying to compete with our hospital and medical clinics; however, that is not the case. We are offering alternatives. Our healthcare in America is a growing struggle. We are in a $2.7 trillion deficit right now with healthcare and we need a way to come out of that. In the past before insurance companies came along, people paid cash for medical care. Yet when insurance companies came into existence, they began dictating the charge for service and the price for which providers were reimbursed, leaving the provider and the patient out of the decision-making process. Medicare and Medicaid, being government insurances, set the bar for those prices and reimbursements. Then all the privatized insurance companies followed suit.”
Downs: Do you primarily serve Medicaid patients?
Gonzales: “We serve a variety of both insured and uninsured patients here. We serve patients that are in need of healthcare no matter their status. Our goal is to cut out the red tape, all the paperwork that is involved with insurance and just serve from a provider-to-patient relationship where insurance does not dictate how we practice. Healthcare is more effective when it’s focused on patient outcome.”
Downs: Why is it better for the patient outcome?
Gonzales: “Because we have more time to focus on the patient. In an insurance situation, for example, if I think the patient needs Test A ordered, sometimes it takes hours to get pre-authorization. But we negotiate directly with the lab or diagnostic imaging centers where there is a cash-pay option for our patients, eliminating the insurance-directed healthcare system. Patients can pay with cash, credit, debit cards, savings accounts, any of those will work.”
Downs: Who would be your most frequent patients?
Gonzales: “I think we focus first on the uninsured, then high-deductible patients such as teachers. My mom is a teacher in Gurdon. She has been there for years and has a $5,000 deductible plan because that’s the only thing she can afford for her and my dad. So going to a typical ‘cough-cold’ office visit at a clinic that accepts her Blue Cross-Blue Shield health insurance, she has to pay out-of-pocket the full cost of the $70-plus office visit. If during that office visit she has a ‘cold-plus’ — another medical condition such as hypertension — that automatically increases the office visit to $130 or more, not including lab or diagnostic tests.
“But when that high-deductible teacher comes here, she pays a $60 office visit.
“Most of our lab costs are between $5 and $10, and we bundle labs together so if someone needs an annual wellness exam, a blood count, kidney-liver functions and a cholesterol panel, we bundle all of that together and give the patient a discount because we can contract with the lab company at a cheaper price since insurance is out of the picture. So we pay the bill to the lab and the patient pays us the price that was set. All of our charges are on-line or in the clinic, so patients can know even before they come into the clinic how much the office visit is going to cost them. It’s as simple as that.
Downs: Why are those who chose the private option still going to the emergency room rather than doctor’s offices for health care?
Gonzales: “Patients are telling us that local clinics are not accepting new patients right now so they feel they have no other choice than to go to the ER. Yet, we are trying to eliminate overuse of the ERs with this clinic. We will see those patients in this clinic and will charge them a reasonable fee of $60.
Other services offered by the clinic include • Urgent Care: Not limited to, but includes minor injuries, sprains, muscle strain, cough /cold congestion, urinary tract infection. • Affordable Lab Work: Blood counts, glucose monitoring, cholesterol screening and allergy testing. A full-service lab that offers hundreds of lab tests • Sports/Work/Physicals • Skin Care - acne, sun damage, anti-aging, sensitive skin • Jane Iredale Medical Makeup • Laser Services • Botox • Massage Therapy.
Office hours: Monday - Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday (seasonal) - 9. a.m. to 1 p.m; Basic prices: Office visit, $60; Frat /School Physical, $30; Flu vaccination, $25 • Telephone: 870-210-5043; website at “We are a direct payment clinic and do not accept any form of health insurance.”