Gilbert family physician Rakesh “Rocky” Patel saw a flaw in the way he was practicing medicine.
He was seeing about 30 patients a day and only spending an average of 15 minutes with each. He said he struggled to establish personal relationships and instead of preventing them from becoming ill, he was treating them far too often after the fact.
His solution: a membership based practice modeled and managed by Medley Health.
Patients pay an annual membership fee to cover what their health insurance won’t. This allowed Patel to cut his patient volume in half. He has allocated his extra time to longer visits to build patient relationships and to practice proactive medicine versus reactive.
“My patient load is cut in half but my work load isn’t,” Patel, 43, says. “It’s quality not quantity.”
Patients have 24/7 access to Patel through phone calls, text messages, emails and even smart phone applications.
Instead of waiting two weeks to be seen, patience can get same day and next day appointments.
Medley Health’s membership model gives him the time and means to determine likelihoods for certain illnesses in patients, like diabetes and heart disease, through lifestyle assessments and tests. He then makes appropriate changes in diet and exercise to prevent the onset of illness.
With a goal of introducing the membership model to more East Valley residents, Patel’s Gilbert practice, Arizona Sun Family Practice, is holding an open house Thursday from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The office is located at 633 E. Ray Road, Building 1, Suite 101. In addition to details about the practice’s offerings, a personal trainer on hand to answer nutritional and exercise questions and a life coach. Raffle prizes will be given away and specials will be available.
“When patients come in they feel fine on the outside but aren’t on the inside,” he says. A lot are at risk for diseases eight to 10 years before they get sick.
The membership plan is $1,200 out-of-pocket a year for individuals or “about a Starbucks a day,” Patel says. It is $1,800 for couples and $2,400 for a family of any size.
That may seem like a lot to pay on top of regular health insurance but according to Amy Culver, a 46-year-old Gilbert woman who credits Patel’s practice with changing her life, it’s a small price to pay for the quality care you get.
“Me and my husband did the math and it doesn’t cost all that much more than higher deductable insurance,” she says. “It’s worth it.”
Culver was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes by Patel in 2002. She also weighed about 300 lbs. Patel tailored an exercise and eating plan for Culver and since then, she has lost about 150 lbs.
“He was very helpful and understanding,” she says. “I certainly would not have signed up if I didn’t get awesome care.”
According to Patel, there are several membership based family practices in Ariz. and about 7,000 nationwide.
Patel has approximately 200 patients enrolled in a membership plan and seven are employed in his practice — Arizona Sun Family Practice — including other doctors who practice traditional medicine.
He hopes to enroll about 200 more patients in the next few years.
“We collaborate with patients to see what works well with them.”
Angela, a senior studying journalism at Arizona State University, is an intern for the East Valley Tribune. Contact her at (480) 898-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org