HOW TO CHOOSE A CONCIERGE PHYSICIAN – PART 2
Physicians aren’t solo operators—how’s the support staff?
Even the smallest practice involves more people than just the physician. Their quality is important too because they can make or break the patient experience.
Most practices use medical assistants for tasks like fielding patient questions and checking blood pressure. These can be marvelously dedicated and enthusiastic people, but it’s fair to point out that their education and training varies—a lot. It can be as much as a two-year college program or as little as a nine-month training course right out of high school.
The Sheldon Sowell Center for Health only employs Registered Nurses with Bachelor of Science in Nursing degrees. RNs earn more than medical assistants, and they deserve to. They have a depth of training and experience that complements the physicians’ expertise and adds an invaluable level of safety to your care.
Where Is the practice located?
Many concierge practices are located on or near a hospital campus. Theoretically this adds convenience, but patients often find these campuses confusing and need to add time merely to figure out the parking situation.
The Sheldon Sowell Center for Health, by contrast, is located a few blocks from I-25 and Colorado Boulevard. Our building has two large ground-level parking lots and there are always spots close to the door. We didn’t think we’d become parking experts when we opened our own office but access is an important element to a patient-friendly practice.
Who’s in your referral network?
This question is related to location because when a primary care practice is on or near a hospital campus, the specialists they collaborate with are probably all part of that hospital system. Every hospital wants you to think it has all the best specialists—and maybe they even believe it—but this defies common sense.
The Sheldon Sowell Center for Health is independent of all hospitals, which allows us to pick the best hospital or specialist for each patient’s individual needs.
Since we opened in 1998 we’ve devoted a substantial amount of time to meeting and evaluating physicians in virtually every specialty as well as practitioners in allied fields like psychology and physical therapy. Because of this we’re able to match our patients with physicians who excel in their specialty, understand our practice, and appreciate seeing our patients.
The Denver area boasts an excellent medical community, but there are times when we can’t find what a patient needs locally. Then we look nationally. When needed we’ve sent our patients to the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, M.D. Anderson (Houston), Sloan Kettering (New York City) and others.
Who answers the phone?
Believe it or not, some concierge practices have answering services or phone trees, or close for lunch. Whose definition of concierge is this?
At The Sheldon Sowell Center for Health the phone is always answered live. During the day our Registered Nurses and support staff take your calls. And we don’t close down for lunch—many of our patients are successful professionals with extraordinary demands on their time, and lunch might be when they catch a break to call their physician. When the office is closed, calls route directly to Drs. Sheldon and Sowell. And all of our patients have our email address as well as our cell and home phone numbers.
How long does it take to get an appointment?
It should go without saying that appointments need to be easy to request, easy to get, and start on time.
At The Sheldon Sowell Center for Health, appointments are available on a same-day or next-day basis. Because we have a strict one-patient one-doctor policy, your doctor is never juggling patients, keeping you waiting while she sees someone else in the next exam room.
Can you support me while I’m on the road?
If you travel or have multiple homes, knowing where and how to get care is important. Is the practice adept at travel medicine? How do they provide care for patients who are away?
At The Sheldon Sowell Center for Health we care for a significant number of travelers as well as patients who come to us from out of state. To prepare our patients who are exploring medically underserved countries, we subscribe to the same travel medicine database as major corporations.
When a patient of ours experiences a medical emergency while on the road, they can call us rather than figure out the local system while in crisis—remember, we’re on call 24/7. If the issue requires an in-person evaluation, we’ll find the nearest local emergency department to send them to. (Except when—and this has happened—we know the nearest ED is substandard and the next-nearest would be the safer choice.) We call the ED to let them know our patient is en route, fax medical records over, and speak to the ED physician after diagnosis so we’re part of the decision-making on next steps.
We can help with non-urgent matters too, so they don’t get neglected and potentially develop into something worse. Left a medicine at home? We’ll send the prescription to a local pharmacy. We’ve arranged for antibiotics waiting at a New York hotel for a patient whose flight got in at 11 p.m., and located physical therapists in San Francisco and a cardiologist in Washington, D.C. We were even able to find a particular ankle brace within a mile of a patient’s hotel in Rome. (That one was fun.)
Next post: annual exams, labs, ownership, and more.