Health Aware: Doctor cuts back to spend more time with patients

<p>Francine Palma Long, MD, an internal medicine physician with Edward Medical Group, is part of MDVIP, a personalized healthcare program that allows her to spend more time with each of her patients. | Submitted</p>

Francine Palma Long, MD, an internal medicine physician with Edward Medical Group, is part of MDVIP, a personalized healthcare program that allows her to spend more time with each of her patients. | Submitted

After more than 25 years in medicine, Francine Palma Long, an internal medicine physician with Edward Medical Group, was ready to cut back on the size of her practice and increase the time she could spend with each patient.

She found a way of doing this in 2011 by affiliating with a personalized health-care program called MDVIP, which sets a limit of 600 patients per physician.

In contrast to traditional office practices, MDVIP patients experience no waiting (appointments start on time), 30-minute office visits and 24-hour access to their physician.

Part of their $1,500 annual fee goes toward a comprehensive annual wellness exam.

Dr. Palma Long and the two other MDVIP physicians on Edward’s medical staff also provide in-hospital care.

“It’s a return to medicine the way it used to be,” Palma Long says. “Many doctors I know would like to have more time with their patients, but it’s not possible in today’s health-care environment when they carry 1,500 to 2,000 patients.”

In December 2011, Naperville resident Sharon Mitchell had her annual physical with Palma Long. It included a detailed discussion about her health and lifestyle as well as blood work, a physical and most importantly, the time to review her medical history in detail.

This review raised a concern that led Palma Long to order an echocardiogram, which revealed an aneurysm of Mitchell’s ascending aorta that was large enough to require surgery. An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of the major blood vessel carrying blood to the organs. Palma Long arranged for her to see a cardiac surgeon who performed open heart surgery in January 2012.

After 18 weeks of cardiac rehab, the trim 70-year-old returned to her regular weight-lifting workouts.

“Without the time-intensive exam and close review of my history, this potentially dangerous condition may have gone unnoticed,” Mitchell says. “I’m very pleased with the whole situation.”

Palma Long appreciates the extra time with patients.

“Many of my patients have multiple medical problems as well as psychosocial issues that need attention,” Palma Long says. “I now have time to address the problems, coordinate care and arrive at a treatment plan that I can explain in a way that patients understand and accept. I also can counsel them on diet, exercise and stress management.”

Palma Long has one receptionist who answers the phone, and one experienced registered nurse. Both get to know the patients personally. Appointments can be made same-day or within one to two days for problems or illness, or within three weeks for the comprehensive wellness exam.

“I like that Dr. Palma Long is available 24/7,” Mitchell says. “If it’s after hours, the answering service will call her, and she calls me back soon afterward.”

Patients also can communicate with Palma Long through secure emails via MDVIP and Edward portals.

“I believe being an MDVIP physician will extend the work lives of experienced physicians and keep them from premature retirement,” Palma Long says. “It makes practicing medicine much more gratifying and reduces the stress of modern-day medicine.”

The MDVIP practices accept Medicare and PPO insurance plans but not HMOs. The fee can be covered by Flex spending accounts, HSAs or can be paid in installments.

To learn more about the MDVIP practices at Edward Medical Group, visit www.EdwardMedicalGroup.org or call 630-527-EMG1. To make an appointment to meet Palma Long, call 630-527-5800.

Health Aware is a weekly column courtesy of Edward Hospital.

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