The Doctor Is In
While concierge medicine may be generating quite a buzz recently, the concept behind this private practice is tried and true.
While concierge medicine may be generating quite a buzz recently, the concept behind this private practice is tried and true. Concierge medicine harkens back to the days when doctors made frequent house calls, knew the ins-and-outs of a family’s medical history, and could be reached at a moment’s notice.
The methods of modern concierge medicine may be more sophisticated, but the idea remains the same: personalized care you can count on. Essentially, individuals or families pay yearly dues to their doctor and enjoy focused, comprehensive service for their medical needs. Most doctors practicing concierge medicine are available 24 hours/seven days a week. Such “boutique” style medical care is garnering a lot of attention lately, especially in light of soaring insurance costs and limited office visits.
We got in touch with Dr. Cindy Williams, M.D., an Endocrinology specialist here in the South Bay, to learn more about her transition into the exciting world of concierge medicine.
Darren Elms: Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to speak with us. Dr. Williams, you are a respected member of the South Bay community. When did you first begin to practice in our area?
Dr. Cindy Willams: After I finished my training at Harbor UCLA in Internal Medicine and then Endocrinology in 1996, I was a staff physician at City of Hope for 4 1/2 years. However, since I lived in Hermosa Beach, when I was presented an opportunity to work in the South Bay in 2000, I jumped on it. I have been in private practice in the South Bay since 2001.
DE: Your practice is a bit different from what most of our readers might be familiar with. Tell us a little about concierge medicine and how it works.
CW: Concierge medicine is “old fashioned medicine.” It is a practice where we provide thorough, comprehensive care to our clientele: they can call us for urgent issues, day or night; we follow our own patients in the hospital setting; we can book urgent appointments anytime; we provide comprehensive and screening physical exams; we help coordinate and review sub-specialist care; and we can also provide peer-review resources when needed. In essence, we are truly functioning as a “primary care physician.” Additionally, quarterly wellness seminars and a newsletter are included.
DE: When did you make the decision to operate your practice this way?
CW: Transitioning to a concierge practice was an easy decision for me, as I already enjoy being thorough and comprehensive. Unfortunately, the insurance driven reimbursement model does not reimburse well for time. It encourages high volume, limited time, or procedural practices. This was NOT a successful business model for someone like myself who likes to be comprehensive in practice scope. For example, it is impossible for me to evaluate a woman with a thyroid problem without discussing weight, cardiovascular, dermatologic, GI or mental health issues.
DE: You specialize in Endocrinology. Do you work as a team with other specialists in your office?
CW: In my office, I am the solo physician. I offer a variety of screening tests, including Carotid Initimal Medial Thickness (CIMT testing), which in other facilities costs $400, and AAA screening. We are fortunate in the South Bay to be surrounded by many fabulous sub-specialists. I usually collaborate with several sub-specialists in designing a “treatment” program with my patients. I am hoping within the next year to be able to expand “health and wellness” and “menopause management” treatment programs.
DE: Do you see concierge medicine as a growing trend, especially in our community?
CW: It is estimated in the U.S. that 17,000 physicians will be transitioning to concierge practices within the upcoming year. As primary care doctors become increasingly frustrated by the red tape involved in providing care to their patients, and as patients become increasingly frustrated with their doc’s over-committed time, concierge practices will continue to be in demand. There is now a professional organization titled “Society for Innovative Medical Practice Design” with an annual meeting tailored for concierge physicians. Tom Lagrelius, a local family physician, is president of this organization.
DE: Many of our readers speak highly of your practice. Through what source would you say you acquire the most new patients?
CW: The largest source of patients, of course, has been my own long-term clientele. Word of mouth then is the next source of new referrals. I have done no advertising as the practice is intentionally kept small and manageable.
DE: Judging from the feedback of your patients, in what ways has concierge medicine made a positive impact on their overall health and lifestyle?
CW: Overall, I believe my patients have been able to have better health outcomes with more of my thoughtful intervention. For example, I’ve made a house call on a post-operative patient and administered IM antibiotic and prevented the need for another hospitalization. By knowing my patients’ history well and being able to accommodate urgent appointments, I’ve prevented many ER visits. I’m able to be more comprehensive in my care and cut down on my patients needing to have multiple office visits.
On an additional note, I thoroughly enjoy my interactions with my clients. They become like family…as I genuinely care about their health and wellbeing. Some docs ask, “doesn’t it bother you that people can call you 24/7?” But I must say it doesn’t feel like an imposition. I would want my sister to call me if she is having a problem. Well, I want my patients to call me if they’re having a problem! I’m really enjoying my new practice.•
Dr. Williams can be found at South Bay Endocrine Associates in Torrance. For more information, call 310-542-6333 or visit southbayendocrine.com.