A return to the old ways of health care

New family practitioner Alpine Family Medicine opens in Sandpoint

Ben Olson
Reader Staff

For Katie Sweeney FNP, health care is about interacting with people the old fashioned way: One at a time, face to face.

The Sweeney family outside Alpine Family Medicine at: Tucker and Katie Sweeney with their children Addison, 4, and Amelia, 21 months. Photo by Ben Olson.

To return to the roots of health care, Sweeney is also returning to her hometown of Sandpoint to open a full spectrum family practice called Alpine Family Medicine, PLLC. Literally, the land where the new office is located on Sweeney’s great grandmother’s former backyard.

“My family has been here a long time,” she said. “This lot was my great grandmother’s entire garden. She had 13 kids, and the entire lot was utilized to feed the family.”

Alpine Family Medicine, located at 1013 Lake St. Unit #102 near City Hall, plans to provide every aspect of a family practice for men, women and children.

“We’ll do it all,” said Sweeney. “Wellness exams, women’s health, sports physicals, minor surgery in the office, acute care. We attempt to take most walk-ins. Everything from cough and cold to UTIs and chronic disease management.”

For Sweeney, the return to a one-on-one relationship with patients is an ideal business model.

“My belief in health care is you partner with your patients,” said Sweeney. “Health care is all about high volume right now. I believe in the old-time health care; see them, talk to them, listen to them, and follow up on them. The full roundabout. We’re not as focused on being profitable. It’s about quality of life and the quality of patients.”

The difference between an urgent care facility and a primary care facility is all about the follow up, according to Sweeney.

“Primary care providers are kind of like your medical house,” she said. “When you have a single spot to go, we do your referrals to specialists. If you need imaging, we coordinate that. We create your medical home. Also, more and more insurance providers require a primary care provider for all referrals.”

The impetus for Sweeney starting a new practice came after working as a nurse practitioner in Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry.

“I’ve heard from people that can’t get in to see their family doctor,” said Sweeney. “When they have a cough or a cold, they’re going into the ER. That’s not right.”

Sweeney plans to build in set times each day to allow for walk-in visits so that patients can get same-day care when they need it.

“We’ll be open for three to four days a week depending on patient needs in order to build up the patient base,” she said.

Why see a nurse practitioner instead of a doctor? Sweeney said the difference between the two is all about prevention.

“The nurse practitioner approach is preventative medicine,” she said. “It’s a big part of being an NP. You focus on preventative health care to help diseases from forming. Studies are showing that preventative medicine pays off. When people are caring for themselves, it’s more cost effective.”

If interested in seeing if Alpine Family Medicine would be a good fit, Sweeney invites anyone interested to call the office at (208) 597-7910 to make an appointment to establish care. Sweeney plans on carrying most major insurance companies, including Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE.

“During that appointment, we do a full review of their history, their records from previous providers, etcetera,” she said. “It’s really about sitting down for 45 minutes and getting to know each other.”

Sweeney and her husband enjoy the recreational offerings of North Idaho, spending time hiking, mountain biking and exploring the lake. They have two children; one aged 20 months, another four years old.

“I hope to be here forever,” she said. “I started my first job at 14 years old at the Beachhouse Restaurant working for Barney Ballard. I hope I can say someday that my first job was in Sandpoint and my last day before retirement was in Sandpoint, too. I love our town and it means a lot to me to be able to have a successful business here.”

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