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Features Health & Wellness Macon County Public Health moves to ‘Open Access’

In an effort to improve access to care, customer service, and healthy patient outcomes, Macon County Public Health has implemented a new patient appointment system called “Open Access.” The Open Access system has replaced the old system of “established clinic days” in favor of a new system in which most services are available Monday through Friday. A primary goal of Open Access is to make it easier to schedule an appointment and reduce the wait time between when a patient calls and when they are seen. Open Access allows patients to be seen in the first available appointment slot, no matter what service they need.

According to Jimmy Villiard, Personal Health Section Administrator, “Since implementation of the Open Access system in mid-February, we’ve been able to catch up on a four week backlog of clinic patients waiting for appointments.”

Villiard added that since the implementation of Open Access, the health center has been able to provide appointments within 72 hours of when the patient had called in for a service that is participating in the Open Access system; and many times, the patient has received an appointment on the same day they called. Appointments are currently made up to three business days in advance.

Villiard explained that most clinical services are now covered under the Open Access system including health exams for children and adults, breast and cervical cancer control, child and adult immunizations, international travel services, family planning, pregnancy testing, STDs as well as other communicable disease services.

An added benefit to the Open Access system is that no appointments are required for laboratory services. Patients may come into the public health center with their physician-ordered lab work during open laboratory hours and receive their lab work at that time. In order for the public health center’s lab to accept a patient’s lab work, it must be ordered by a physician and have a diagnosis code. In addition, patients should be aware that 12 hours fasting is required for lipid and metabolic panels.

The days and times established for physician-ordered lab work are as follows:

• Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday: 8:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. • Tuesday: 1 pm to 4:30 pm • Friday: 8:15 am to 11:30 am

“Public health is all about improving quality of life for everyone in the community,” Villiard added. “We hope this new appointment system will make public health services more convenient for our patients, and in turn, increase the amount that our residents access public health services. As this new system becomes more established, we hope to make even more adjustment to better meet the needs of our clients.”

Only Franklin area services are impacted by the Open Access system. Highlands and Nantahala clinic days will not change. Macon County Public Health will file Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Tricare, Crescent, and certain Medicare replacements for its patients. To schedule an appointment or learn more about any of the services listed above, call (828)349-2081 or visit

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