Orion Falvey '13 knows firsthand what it's like to live in a small town with limited health care. Falvey grew up in the remote town of Haines, Alaska. When he was in the eighth grade, his sister Rigel got sick and the local clinic wasn't able to diagnose her symptoms. After several months, the family brought her to Seattle Children's Hospital, where they learned she had Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Though Rigel's health journey came to a positive conclusion—she's been in remission for eleven years—the family's experience played a key role in inspiring Falvey and Oliver Alexander '14 to come up with a healthcare project as their entry in the inaugural Oregon Social Business Challenge in 2012.
Alexander and Falvey's concept took second place in the competition and the pair were off and running. During the next two years they refined their business model and raised more than $100,000 in funding.
“We researched endlessly and found a number of problems that stand in the way of rural healthcare delivery before coming up with our current delivery model," said Falvey.
Based on data from state health officials about where the greatest needs lay, they selected a location for their pilot clinic and recruited medical and support staff.
Along the way, the pair racked up numerous recognitions from the region's entrepreneurial community, including first prize for their business model at this year's Civil War Shark Tank at the UO, first prize at the concept stage of the 2014 Willamette Angel Conference in Corvallis, and audience favorite at Portland's Elevating Impact Summit in January.
On August 10, 2014, Alexander and Falvey's vision became a reality, with the opening of the Orchid Health clinic in Oakridge, Oregon.
The clinic offers unlimited primary and preventative care appointments for flat monthly fees that range from $39–$69, depending on the patient's age. The clinic accepts patients on the Oregon Health Plan—the state's version of Medicaid—and does not require patients to have health insurance policies.
Even before the clinic's official launch, more than 150 Oakridge, Dexter, Lowell, and Fall Creek residents had enrolled for care.
For Alexander and Falvey, working with the Oakridge community has been a hugely rewarding experience.
“The people we interact with on a daily basis, they're so incredibly kind and grateful. We're so excited to offer health services to people who have gone so long without them," said Alexander in a recent article in The Register-Guard.
But for these entrepreneurial young alumni, the Oakridge clinic is just the start. If Alexander and Falvey have their way, Orchid Health will provide a bold new model for delivering health care in rural areas in Oregon and beyond.