Only $4 a day to a healthier you
By Samantha Pearsall
You’ll pay about $4 every morning for a coffee at Starbucks, so wouldn’t you pay $4 a day for an excellent doctor with around the clock availability and prescriptions delivered to your door? Preventive healthcare is an up and coming type of practice that requires an annual membership fee of approximately $1,500, or about $4 a day. The new model offers a comprehensive physical that includes tracking family medical history, blood testing, EKGs and screenings for mental illness, and more. There are no waiting rooms, appointments are as long as needed, and patients always speak to trained professionals and not automated machines to make same-day or next-day appointments. In fact, doctors provide patients with their own cell phone numbers to be contacted 24-hours a day. This all leaves much to be desired for many who are still sitting in waiting rooms to see their doctor for a mere 10 minute annual physical.
Preventive, personal care to open on Cape in October
There are currently seven preventive medicine practices in Massachusetts that are affiliated with MDVIP, a national network of preventive and personalized care practices. MDVIP operates in 28 states with over 300 doctors and nearly 111,000 patients, all of which are able to make appointments with any MDVIP physician in any state. Now two long-time Cape physicians are opening the first of these practices on the Cape in South Yarmouth and Hyannis. Dr. Stephen Malaquias and Dr. Walter Rymzo Jr. contracted with MDVIP this summer and will open their new practices on October 27th. Until then, both doctors will be practicing in a traditional PCP manner. The new practices will be located in the same offices: Malaquias’ practice will be at 257 Station Avenue in South Yarmouth and Rymzo’s practice will be at 40 Quinlan Way in Hyannis.
Current patients encouraged to stay with Malaquias, Rymzo
Existing patients are encouraged to continue with their doctors, however, MDVIP requires their physicians to only carry 600 patients. Malaquias and Rymzo each have roughly 1,200 patients, which means about half of these patients will have to find another doctor—and soon. Letters were sent out about a month ago to notify patients of the circumstances and offer the patients a spot in the new practice for $1,500 a year per person. According to Robin Lord, Senior Writer/Media Relations for Cape Cod Healthcare, many patients are excited and many have already signed up. Lord nor MDVIP would disclose the exact number of registered MDVIP patients from the Cape.
MDVIP President Darin Engelhardt explained once a doctor is selected by MDVIP, it is a four-month transition process into the new model. This gives time for those current patients to make a conscious decision to participate in the new program or find a new traditional doctor. Lord said, “We have our physician referral line (1-877-CAPE COD), which is for anyone in the community (to search for a local physician), but I believe there is also a specific referral person for the Rymzo-Malaquias patients.”
Preventive, not reactive medicine
Some refer to this new practice model as “concierge” or “boutique” medicine. However, Nancy Udell, a media relations representative for MDVIP, said these terms are not at all suited to the comprehensive care offered because celebrities and wealthy individuals are not the primary patients. In fact, most patients are not concerned with the hefty membership fee. They are looking for highly qualified, available doctors who will be able to take a proactive approach to their health. Instead of fighting an illness once you begin to feel sick--a reactive approach--Malaquias and Rymzo will work with patients to prevent such illnesses by designing personalized wellness plans that pertain to mental and physical health and consider each patient's individual goals. Engelhardt said in this way MDVIP physicians take on the role of a wellness coach.
Even during the recession, Engelhardt said, the renewal rate for patients is still high at nearly 93 percent because patients value high quality healthcare. “They reprioritize,” he said, “and don’t even think twice about renewing their membership.”
But what doctor has time to answer the phone all day and night, offer same-day appointments that last a minimum of half an hour, screen all patients for endless risk factors to their health, and coach them in their personal wellness plans? Most traditional primary care physicians cannot accomplish all this due to time constraints and having extensive patient bases—some serving more than 4,500 patients. In these situations doctors are forced into practicing reactively. With fewer patients, Malaquias and Rymzo will be able to focus more acutely on each one’s needs and conditions. Each patient will have their own individual website with all medical history, including medications, blood work, and even recent EKG results. a wallet-sized CD will also be provided with all this information so patients have it for emergencies and when seeing specialists.
MDVIP a good fit for older patients
Cape Cod was an appropriate location for MDVIP’s practices, according to Engelhardt. With nearly half of MDVIP patients being 65 years and older, the Cape’s large elderly population was encouraging. He was uncertain if the doctors approached MDVIP or vice versa. He did comment on their credentials and 30-plus year experience. Lord suggested retirement was in the near future for both doctors, but this new model will allow them to slow down, get to know each patient, and optimize their ability to practice medicine. Engelhardt said MDVIP doctors say this preventive care model allows them to practice the way they intended when they went to medical school in the first place.
Sign up, but you still need insurance in MA
Preventive care is about maintaining healthy patients, not making someone better who is already sick. MDVIP claims MDVIP patients are less likely to be hospitalized because detection of illness and disease occurs much earlier. Visits to the ER were reduced by about 50 percent. Patients must still have insurance in Massachusetts (as it is a state law), but insurance companies are only responsible for emergency visits (when you do get sick and need to see the doctor), visits to specialists not affiliated with MDVIP, and hospital visits. Your regular co-pay would cover all of these. The annual membership fee covers all other visits to Malaquias’ and Rymzo’s offices for tracking personal and family medical history; identifying various risk factors; blood testing, EKGs; screenings for mental illness, nutrition, balance, exercise, and sleep disorders; vision, hearing, and pulmonary testing; and medication review and analysis.
If you are a current patient of either Malaquias or Rymzo and you would like more information about their new practices, visit www.mdvip.com. For help searching for a new physician on the Cape who is right for you, contact Cape Cod Healthcare at 1-877-CAPE COD or visit www.capecodhealth.org and click on Find A Physician on the left.