Bilingual Clinic Provides Care To Tampa's Diverse Community

Jan 11, 2017

Spanish speakers in the Tampa area have a new health care provider that they can understand.

Located on West Hillsborough Avenue, CliniSanitas calls itself Tampa's first multicultural medical center.

The clinic’s staff is 100 percent bilingual and though it provides urgent care, the clinic really aims to be your family doctor.

The concept is a household name in Colombia, where it started.

Dr. Federico Kallman is one of three doctors on staff at the clinic. He says he once worked in a local hospital emergency room where he was the only physician who spoke Spanish.

"The health care experience is transformed completely when you have somebody that can respond to you in your own language," Kallman said. "It's definitely a key that, in my opinion, impacts the outcome."

The Tampa clinic where he works isn't the first in Florida; three others already are operating in the Miami area. They are a partnership between Colombia-based Sanitas, which has similar facilities all over South America, and Guidewell, the parent company of Florida Blue.

The insurance company got involved to steer patients who come to the clinic for urgent care to a primary care doctor who can focus on preventative care. 

Adriana Murillo works for CliniSanitas,but she's also a patient at one of the Miami clinics. A native of Colombia, she said the clinics help connect the cultural and linguistic needs of the Hispanic community in Florida. In Tampa, that means providing Spanish-speaking doctors in a region where they may be harder to find. 

"If I can't really express myself and you don't speak my language, it's going to be very hard for me to follow your advice and I'm gonna be less likely to get better," Murillo said.

She admits the clinic's focus on creating a doctor-patient relationship took some getting used to. Twenty to 30 minutes one-on-one with a doctor is typical for each appointment.

"There's a long conversation and I wasn't used to that," Murillo said. "It was a completely new experience for me to actually spend half an hour with a doctor."

Walking through the new Tampa clinic, the waiting room looks and feels more like a hotel lobby. Receptionists greet walk-in patients or people who have an appointment to see their regular doctor. There are rooms for ultrasounds, X-rays and EKG's to help patients avoid trips to see specialists.

Murillo said there are special rooms for children, with cartoon characters on the walls and games for them to play. 

"We can take care of the entire family, not just adults, seniors, but also the kids," she said.

There's also a space similar to an emergency room's triage area, with three beds separated by curtains. Here, doctors can monitor patients suffering from fever, abdominal pain or infections for up to six hours to see if they improve. Doctors can order labs, X-rays and ultrasounds and view the results immediately. 

While the CliniSanitas concept focuses a lot on language, Florida Blue Spokeswoman Christie DeNave said reducing costs is also a priority. For those insured by Florida Blue, much of the care is free , including sick visits, diagnostics, labs and specialists who are on site.

"We want to incentivize members to use a location like this because they are going to take care of the patient as a whole," DeNave said.

For those who visit the clinic without a Florida Blue policy, the out-of-pocket prices are comparable to other walk-in clinics.

The difference is, Spanish speakers should walk away understanding what they paid for.