Concierge Practices Even for Doctors Who Don't Like the Idea

Neil Chesanow


January 09, 2014

In This Article

A More Comfortable and Relaxed Lifestyle

In his new practice, renamed Skypark Preferred Family Care, instead of seeing 25 patients a day, LaGrelius now sees an average of 15 patients.

"I do 2-4 comprehensive wellness exams a day," he says. "They take at least an hour. Some patients are there for a couple of hours. Then each of them gets a follow-up visit a couple of weeks later when we go over a care plan, and that takes a half-hour. Office visits are a half-hour long. That's pretty much minimum."

"Office visits are comfortable and relaxed," LaGrelius says. "I've got 4 people here passing out coffee and fresh-baked cookies and waffles and warm blankets, and smiling and being helpful to everyone."

In the office, in the few moments that patients wait for LaGrelius to appear, they sit in what he calls a "non-waiting room" -- decorated to look like a cozy living room in a private home. He doesn't offer special weight-loss clinics, nutrition seminars, or group sessions for patients with chronic conditions; such information is part of the preventive education given one-on-one to each patient, he says.

His patients are like family, LaGrelius says. Most have been with him for years. An avid pilot who owns 2 small planes, he occasionally flies patients to picturesque Catalina Island, a 10-minute flight away, as his guests for lunch and a couple of hours of sightseeing on Wednesday afternoons -- his half-day off. He has taken as many as 3 patients at a time -- the youngest 10, the oldest 98.

"We talk about whatever they want to talk about," he says. "These days, it's hard to avoid talking about the Affordable Care Act. That's what everyone wants to know about."

If patients are up for it, he wows them with some aerial maneuvers before heading home. These jaunts are extremely popular, he says, and are booked months in advance.

But what patients are paying for is less about fresh-baked cookies and sightseeing trips and more about enough time with the doctor. "It's leisurely," LaGrelius says of patient visits. "The last thing I say when I walk out of a patient's room is, 'Are you sure there isn't anything else you want to talk about?' It's never one problem at a time and I have to go like most practices are running these days. I'm virtually never behind now. Even with an occasional emergency, the practice runs very smoothly."

His biggest complaint: Despite having both his cell phone and home phone numbers and carte blanche to use them, his patients don't call him enough.

"Probably 90% of the time, after 10 PM my phone never rings," LaGrelius says. "They're incredibly respectful of my time."

He wishes they would be a tad less respectful. "'Why are you reluctant to call me when something goes wrong?'" he asks patients in frustration. "'Why do I see you 2 days later and you've taken care of that cut badly? I want you to call me when something happens.'"

"People pour peroxide in their wounds without calling me!" he exclaims in exasperation. "Not smart. I'd rather have them call me when the problem occurs -- immediately, whatever time of day or night it is -- so I can deal with it and not have to deal with the complications of how they managed it wrong."


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