Versus Technology increases efficiency, decreases wait time at health clinic

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic recently completed renovations that saw several improvements to the building including new patient rooms, additional dental chairs as well as new check-in stations. The clinic’s reason for the remodel was not only for modernization, but primarily to create a better overall experience for the patients, factoring in community feedback when designing the new floor plan. Prior to the renovation, one of the biggest issues many patients encountered was sitting in the waiting room for a long period of time before being seen by a doctor. Through the remodel, the clinic addressed this issue by incorporating more acute care patient rooms. By adding more rooms, the clinic is able bring more patients back at a time to get their vitals checked by a medical assistant before they’re seen by a doctor. The clinic has also recently implemented the Versus Technology system to help create a more efficient visit for their patients.  

Versus Technology is an inferred/radio frequency locating system. The system has been utilized in many clinics and hospitals across the nation for a number of years to help optimize patient flow. Often times, patients have to visit many areas of the clinic during the same trip including the x-ray rooms and labs as well as dental and optometry. The Versus system ensures that patients don’t get lost along the corridors, aren’t left unattended for too long and most importantly, are safe while receiving care at the health clinic.

Upon checking-in, patients are given a Versus badge attached to a small clipboard, which is carried by the patient during their entire visit. This allows health clinic staff to see on their computer screens where the patient is at in the building and how far along they are in their appointment. If a patient is waiting in one area for more than fifteen minutes, staff is alerted via a screen pop-up. The staff then checks on the patient and gives them an update as well as an expected wait time, letting the patient know they haven’t been forgotten. 

The badges also help employees locate one another for assistance during the busy hours of the day. All staff members at the clinic have a badge that is worn at all times while working. The staff badges have a button for emergency situations, and when pressed all employees are notified and can rush to that location to help. Versus Technology also helps practitioners by allowing them to review the amount of time spent with their patients, which helps with scheduling. For instance, if a doctor schedules his appointments in thirty-minute increments but often spends an extra five minutes with each patient, that increases the wait time for each of his following patients.  The new system allows that doctor to recognize that he needs to schedule all of his appointments for five additional minutes and eliminate patient wait time. 

The health clinic decided to use Versus after visiting the Monroe Providence Clinic and seeing the system in action as well as conducting a survey from their patients. 

“We talked to patients who were utilizing Versus and asked them how they liked it and most of them loved it,” explains Dr. Rhonda Nelson, Tulalip Health Clinic’s Health Informatics Manager. “I don’t think there was a single negative piece of feedback because they really felt it helped the flow of their visit, making sure they were getting where they needed to go and when they needed to get there. 

“At Monroe they actually room themselves, they get handed a badge and the staff writes on the clipboard what room they’re supposed to go to,” she continues. “They don’t even wait in the waiting room; they just go back to the room like a hotel. On one hand, it’s somewhat impersonal, our patients tend to expect a more personal experience than that. On the other hand, it decreases communal diseases because a lot of time when you go to the doctor, people are actually sick – coughing, hacking, sneezing, got a fever. The less time you spend in the waiting room with all the sick people, you actually have less of a chance of catching something. You’ll notice our waiting room is actually smaller with much less seating, they anticipated that patients would be sitting in the waiting room less with Versus.”

The clinic officially began using Versus on April 17, which has been met with a mix of extremely positive reviews as well as heavy concern from the elders of the community.

“Many elders expressed concern with me, one of them was privacy,” says Dr. Nelson. “They were wondering if we were going to monitor how much time they spent in the bathroom. We’re looking at this as more of an overall thing, like the amount of time they spend alone and are waiting. Their other concern was, are you going to shorten my visit to make your staff look good, are you under the gun to get me out of the room? That had been voiced by some of the elders, asking if we’re going to rush them. And the answer is no, that’s not our goal. Our goal is to see how long you are waiting, if you’re getting seen in a timely manner and if we’re communicating with you about what’s happening. 

“We want to make sure that people have clear expectations of their visit time and also that we’re utilizing our rooms well,” she states. “Your safety is important to us. No, we’re not monitoring how long you’re in the bathroom, but if someone’s been in the bathroom for a really long time, thirty or more minutes, we want to check to see that they’re okay. We also don’t want you to have to worry about missing your appointment if you have to use the bathroom because we can see that you’re still in the building. And we still have a number of smokers that step outside and the badge just shows us that they haven’t left, so when we’re ready for them we can go out and let them know to come on back. It’s still new and it takes some time to get used to change, but I think that we’re doing great and that [Versus] helps us create a better, more efficient experience for our patients.”

Tulalip Health Fair and Career Expo

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News

The Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic hosted their Annual Health Fair on July 28 in the Chinook Ballroom of the Tulalip Resort and Casino. Numerous departments from the Health Clinic and the Tulalip Tribes had interactive information booths stationed at the event including the Diabetes and Wellness programs, SNAP-Ed, Child Advocacy and the Everett Optometry Clinic. The Health Clinic also provided free screenings for diabetes and high blood pressure to the community at the Health Fair.

“We’ve been doing this for many years,” explains Jennie Fryberg, Health Fair Organizer. “Karen Fryberg started this and I’m just trying to keep her dream alive. We brought in several departments; all of the booths that are here today are services that the Tulalip Tribes offer. We wanted to let our people know that these are the services that can help with preventive health.”

Across the hall in the Orca Ballroom of the Resort, Tulalip TERO (Tribal Employment Rights Office) held a Career Expo where community members seeking employment opportunities met representatives from local colleges and businesses such as Cabela’s, DigiPen Institute, Evergreen State College and Everett Community College Aviation. Tulalip also had many representatives from various departments and entities available to the speak with the community, including the Tulalip Administration CSR team, Tulalip Tribes Planning, Quil Ceda Village and Tulalip Resort and Casino Employment.

Tulalip and Marysville community members were encouraged to attend both events and were treated to an outdoor lunch on a beautiful summer afternoon. Many community members who attended the Health Fair and the Career Expo received free swag, sang carpool karaoke and had the opportunity to win summertime-themed prizes such as a Seahawks cooler, a lawnmower, a freezer chest and an air conditioner.



A New Vision for Tulalip: Everett Optometry Clinic Opens at Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic

The new optometry clinic offers a variety of frames from over thirty brands including Oakley, Ray Ban, Dolce & Gabana, Maui Jim, and the Native American eyewear company Aya.

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

The Tulalip Tribes recently welcomed the Everett Optometry Clinic, this past November, to a new office located at the Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic. For the past forty years, Everett Optometry has provided eye care services to Snohomish county residents. With numerous positive online reviews, the optometry clinic is a favorite among locals of the Everett area. By bringing their friendly customer service and making accountability top priority, Everett Optometry looks forward to a new outlook in eye care for the Tulalip community.

Eye health is often overlooked. In today’s society of constantly switching between phone, tablet, computer and TV screens it is important to take care of your eyes and visit the optometrist for an annual exam. During a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist can determine if a patient requires prescription glasses or contact lenses as well detect early signs of diseases such as glaucoma and cataracts.

Diabetes and high blood pressure, both major health concerns across Native America, can cause damage to the eye vessels, and if untreated can lead to complete vision loss. Everett Optometry works with the Tulalip Health Clinic’s medical professionals to provide the best possible care under one umbrella to individuals living with diabetes or high blood pressure.

Dr. Rachel Spillane, Optometric Physician.A new vision for Tulalip: Everett Optometry Clinic opens at Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic

Optometric Physician, Dr. Rachel Spillane spoke of the importance of eye exams, “It’s just so critical at all ages, we are seeing everyone from two year-olds to ninety year-olds. Especially for kids right as they are entering school, we want to make sure they have the proper vision and their eyes are focusing properly so they will be able to learn.”

Children who are nearsighted, vision that causes far away objects to appear blurry, are able to express their visual impairment and therefore can be treated. However, children who see objects in the distance clearly but have trouble seeing closer items, or farsighted, may not communicate that they are having difficulties seeing properly. For this reason, it is important to get children’s eyes checked at a young age, preferably before heading into school. During the eye chart test, when patients read letters out loud from a distance, Dr. Spillane provides fun shapes such as animals for the younger children who may not know their alphabet yet. The optometry clinic also takes the time to discuss proper usage and safety for glasses and contact lenses with children.

In some cases, parents opt to wait to take their children to the optometrist until they are older, preventing the child from unlocking their full potential in school.

“We’ve been finding a lot of kids that are a little further along, I’d say about second grade, they’re really struggling. Their teachers have labeled them as problem children because they’re not able to focus and pay attention. And then I’ll do their exam and find out they can’t see anything. But at that age they don’t say what’s wrong. As an adult we’ll say, I have a headache, or the words are going in and out [of focus]. Kids won’t, they’ll just quit and go do other things,” she stated.

The new office has state of the art technology allowing Dr. Spillane the ability to perform a majority of the procedures at the clinic, with a few exceptions including Lasik Laser eye surgery, which can be performed at the Colby Avenue location. The optometry clinic also sees patients for infections such as pink eye, as well as emergency situations like cuts or eye bleeding.

Dispensing Optician, Dianna Felgar, assists during the process of choosing the perfect pair of frames, lenses, and contact lenses for each patient. The new optometry clinic offers a variety of frames from over thirty brands including Oakley, Ray Ban, Dolce & Gabana, Maui Jim, and the Native American eyewear company Aya.

Qualified patients may receive additional financial assistance through Tulalip’s Patient Assistance program. Gloria Beal, Paraoptometric at the clinic, works with finance and insurance companies to ensure the patient is receiving the funding they are eligible for, therefore allowing them to receive the care they require.

Currently the Everett Optometry Clinic is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. However, through an office cell phone where voicemail and text messages are encouraged, they are available to the Tulalip community at all times. Patients can also be seen Monday-Friday at the Everett location.

For additional information please contact (360) 716-4511, visit, or call/text their office cell phone (425) 314-1312.

Tulalip TV program explores diabetes in first Tulalip Health Watch episode

Tulalip TV’s Tulalip Health Watch will air this summer and will focus on health issues Native Americans face today.
Photo/ Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News

TULALIP, WA – Tulalip TV viewers will soon be able to watch a new informational program called “Tulalip Health Watch,” which focuses on health issues Native Americans face today.

In the program’s first episode, “Diabetes,” the disease is examined through interviews with health professionals at the Tulalip Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic. Viewers will learn the fundamental characteristics of diabetes, along with resources available for testing, prevention, and treatment.

Diabetes affects 57 million Americans, and only 8.3 percent are diagnosed. But more shocking are the epidemic proportions of diabetes in Indian Country with 16.2 percent Native Americans and Alaska Natives diagnosed.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Indian Health Service, Native Americans are at a 2.2 times higher risk than their non-Indian counterparts. Between 1994 and 2004 there was a 68 percent increase in diabetes diagnosis in American Indian and Alaska Native youth, aged 15-19 years old.

In “Diabetes,” viewers will learn how a poor diet, lack of regular exercise, and a genetic pre-disposition are the leading contributing factors for 95 percent of American Indians and Alaska Native with Type 2 diabetes, and 30 percent with THW---Diabetes-BryanCooper-2pre-diabetes.

Viewers will also learn how clinic staff incorporates Tulalip culture and traditions into programs available at the clinic for diabetes education, prevention, and management.

“The providers that we have here are great. The Tribe is putting money into this clinic and our goal is to be here with an open mind and heart, and to be a partner here for them regarding their health needs. We have a collaborative team here that you don’t see at other clinics,” said Bryan Cooper, Tulalip Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic Nurse Practitioner in “Diabetes.”

“Tulalip Health Watch,” will air this summer. Future episodes will explore heart disease, obesity, and other health issues Native Americans face.

You can watch “Tulalip Health Watch” on Tulalip TV at or on channel 99 on Tulalip Cable.


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;

Greenhouse gardeners begin transplanting crops to aid local food banks

Photo/ Richelle Taylor
Photo/ Richelle Taylor

by Brandi N. Montreuil, Tulalip News 

TULALIP – Gardeners in training took part in a transplanting extravaganza on Sunday, March 16, at the Hibulb Cultural Center.

A new partnership between the Tulalip Tribes and the Washington State University Snohomish County Master Gardeners Foundation is making it possible for participants to learn the nit and grit of greenhouse gardening.

During Sunday’s event, 40 gardeners of all ages transplanted 75 flats of broccoli, kale, and chard seedlings into larger pots. These seedlings will be part of a crop grown to aid local food banks, such as Tulalip Food Bank, and other Snohomish County Master Gardener food bank gardens.

Tulalip tribal member Gisselo Andrade Jr., helps transplant broccoli that will be harvested for the Tulalip Food Bank during the Greenhouse Gardening class hosted by the Tulalip Tribes and Washington State University Snohomish County Master Gardeners Foundation on March 16, 2014. Photo/ Richelle Taylor
Tulalip tribal member Gisselo Andrade Jr., helps transplant broccoli that will be harvested for the Tulalip Food Bank during the Greenhouse Gardening class hosted by the Tulalip Tribes and Washington State University Snohomish County Master Gardeners Foundation on March 16, 2014.
Photo/ Richelle Taylor

“We all got to know each other more and shared our passion and enthusiasm for gardening,” said Veronica Leahy, Diabetes Educator at the Tulalip Karen I. Fryberg Health Clinic. The gardens began with the clinic’s diabetes management care and prevention education as the ‘Gardening Together as Families’ program. The program expanded through the Rediscovery Program at the Hibulb Cultural Center to incorporate traditional plants and traditional foods

“Even in the rain we were warm and comfortable inside the greenhouse, enjoying each other’s company,” said Leahy.

An additional class was held on Wednesday, March 19, that focused on proper transplanting, water, and sanitization techniques, along with how to seed and label plants, and protecting young plants as they grow.

For more information on ‘Gardening Together as Families’ program at the Hibulb Cultural Center, please contact Veronica Leahy at 360-716-5642 or


Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402;


Photo/ Richelle Taylor
Photo/ Richelle Taylor


Seventy-five flats of broccoli, kale, and chard seedling were transplanted during the Greenhouse Gardening class hosted by the Tulalip Tribes and the Washington State University Snohomish County Master Gardeners Foundation on March 16, 2014 at the Hibulb Cultural Center. Photo/ Richelle Taylor
Seventy-five flats of broccoli, kale, and chard seedling were transplanted during the Greenhouse Gardening class hosted by the Tulalip Tribes and the Washington State University Snohomish County Master Gardeners Foundation on March 16, 2014 at the Hibulb Cultural Center.
Photo/ Richelle Taylor
Photo/ Richelle Taylor
Photo/ Richelle Taylor