September 2021 will be ten years since changing to concierge medicine. A lot has changed in the last ten years! But the one thing that has remained constant is my belief of how healthcare should be delivered and received.
There was a time in my early years of practice when my patient schedule would be bookmarked with 20+ patients, all spaced in increments of 15 minutes. I barely had time to say ‘Hi’ to them and next thing I knew, I was walking out the door. There was no time to ask them how they were doing or how the family, kids, work were. We had time to address only one problem at each visit, leaving the rest for a future appointment.
I will never forget the day that I decided I needed to make a change. It was March 2011, and as usual my schedule was double booked with no breaks in sight. As a person who is time conscious, I make it a point to stay on time, but one small set back in the day would put me behind by at least an hour. The day started like any other. I was feeling good that I was on schedule and the stars were aligning. By late morning, a quick 5 minute break opened. I felt like I hit the jackpot. I walked into to see my next patient before that break, only to find out her beloved husband had suddenly died. How could I leave her in the middle of her anguished tears just because the timer on the 15 minutes was ticking down? I couldn’t! So I stayed there to be with her.
I was very well aware of the angry patients that began to line up after her. They also had places to go, things to do, people to see. But I couldn’t bring myself to tell her that our time was finished. I wanted to give her the respect of my time as she began telling me about the special love she shared with her soulmate for over 50 years.
I also knew it was not fair to the others who were waiting after her because their time was just as important and valuable.
The internal tug-o-war was too much for me to handle. Both pulled at my heart strings and I didn’t know what the right thing to do was – stay and comfort or politely excuse myself?
It was in that moment I knew I couldn’t do this anymore. How was I to take care of somebody in 15 minutes when they were placed so much trust in me to help them? I went home that night 2 hours behind schedule only to collapse into a pool of defeat.
When I graduated from medical school, I took an oath “First Do No Harm” NOT “First Do No Harm, but only for 15 minutes!”
This realization left me with no choice except to make the decision to change to Concierge Medicine.
In September 2011, I began my new practice. There was an exponential learning curve during those initial days. I had to give myself permission to take my time. I had to get used to the fact that there was no reason for me to rush. What a feeling of freedom and joy I had!! Nine years later, my patients have become like family. I cherish hearing their stories. I relish in their experiences and I rejoice in their healing.
To me, the most profound experience has been the process of learning together with my patients. I always say I don’t have all the answers, but why not find out together. To engage in dialogue that brings about mutual growth and discovery is the best platform I know how to offer.
The time I now have gives me the chance to earn your trust and I hope it allows you to feel heard.
Why I am writing about this now is because everything around us, outside of us and inside of us is chaos and confusion? When equal trust spans between physician-patient, you know you have an anchor to always hold onto.
Practicing Concierge Medicine is the reason my bond with each of you allows me the space to say “You know what? I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know when things are going to be okay. But together we will figure it out.”