JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., Sept. 22, 2011 -- After just a few months of being open, the area's first, off-base clinic is receiving rave reviews and looking for more. The clinic is intended to grow to see over 8,000 patients within its first year.

"It has been so exciting," said Stacey Solomonson, a Nurse Case Manager at the Madigan Puyallup Medical Home Clinic. "We have been able to reach out to Madigan patients in a way that we are all proud of."

Receiving their primary care at a location off base, but still operated by the Army, is new to patients in Army Medicine. Those patients taking advantage of the new clinic in the Puyallup area were pleased with more than just avoiding the drive to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"My visit was fantastic," said Laura Munson, a spouse of a senior Army noncommissioned officer. "I should I know because I am a health care worker myself. The one-on-one care here was the best part. I didn't feel rushed and I felt like I was important."

Munson's reaction was common among patients and visitors.

"The common theme from the comment cards is that the staff is warm, friendly and appears genuinely concerned about their patients," said Clinic Manager and Group Practice Manager Frank Bannister. "The number one comment appearing over and over again is that they take the time to listen to me."

Despite the clinic's room for 6,000 more patients, being the trailblazer for an idea so new is not without road bumps, something Bannister and staff took in stride.

"Being the first clinic to open off base, we've had to start everything from scratch," Bannister said. "It has been exciting and fast paced. We can't believe the support we are getting from our patients and Madigan. We have had a few challenges, but that's when Madigan support came in."

Despite the old "government issue" adage, patients in the Army Medicine system often get to choose where they are seen. While the Puyallup clinic may be open to family members of active duty military only, no one in that group is forced to go there. This leaves the staff in an unusual position in the Army. They want to earn their business.

"I would invite the family (who is not sure about coming to the clinic) out to tour our clinic and meet our staff," Solomonson said. "Our facility is brand new and we would love a chance to show them what we have to offer; including on-site immunization clinic, laboratory and pharmacy."

"I would also tell them that licensed practical nurses are the first to greet them when they walk through the door so their first class care starts at the check-in desk," she explained. "These same LPNs are available after the visit to ensure that they understand the plan of care and will assist in care coordination if needed."

Another new aspect of Army medicine being showcased at the Puyallup Clinic is the Medical Home Concept. While there is no way to tell if your military doctor is going to be deployed any time soon, making sure you see him or her every time when they are here, and that they work close with their team in providing your care, takes some of the uncertainty out of the equation.

The off-base clinics take that one step further, and are currently only staffed by civilians. The goal is that the patient knows everyone on the team, and the team knows the patient.

"Our patients not only have a dedicated and knowledgeable PCM (primary care manager), they also have a team of two nurses who are an important part of each encounter," Solomonson said. "As a team, they will get to know you and your family while coming up with ways to make health care more convenient and less stressful."

"We believe continuity improves health care so if for some reason you are not able to see your assigned PCM, we make every effort to have a familiar nurse available for you," she said. "We are proud of what our nurses do and believe their input sets us apart."

All of this was in response to years of surveys asking Army patients what they wanted to see. Bannister and his team hope to give them exactly what they asked for.

"The clinics are built on response from military dependents," Bannister said. "Come out and see how the Army responded. Try us, you'll like us."