That classic medical phrase, "the doctor will see you now," might one day become a thing of the past. Where Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH, is concerned, it's already old school.
The Virtual Medical Practice
”The web has fixed a lot of broken industries; it’s time to do it for healthcare.”—Marty Tenenbaum, PhD
That classic medical phrase, “the doctor will see you now,” might one day become a thing of the past. Where Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH, is concerned, it’s already old school.
Dr. Parkinson is unconventional, but certainly not unsuccessful. Last September, the Brooklyn, NY-based physician launched his practice which is 98% virtual. For an annual fee of $500, patients receive an initial face-to-face consultation in their home that can last anywhere from one to two hours. That’s where Dr. Parkinson says he really gets to know his patients.
“Mostly I chat with them,” Dr. Parkinson explains. “The majority of people, especially in the age group that I see (persons age 40 and under), don’t have complex medical histories. But they are complex beings. I just want to get to know them as best as possible.”
After that, patients receive unlimited ‘visits’ by way of instant messaging, phone, e-mail or web video sessions—a sort of telemedicine approach. And Dr. Parkinson has compiled a massive database of inexpensive specialists and providers of other health-related services in the New York area to whom he refers patients.
Where it Began
Dr. Parkinson obtained his medical degree from Penn State and his master’s in public health at Johns Hopkins. It was during his last rotation at Hopkins’ Center for Innovation and Quality Patient Care that Dr. Parkinson experienced Toyota’s manufacturing process being used to develop safety initiatives in the healthcare environment.
“It was about designing the process of healthcare delivery so that the errors are designed out,” says Dr. Parkinson. “I started realizing that our healthcare system is screwed up, and I thought I had a solution. Because there’s a whole squad of consumers willing to pay a reasonable price for quality healthcare.”
The numbers don’t lie. Dr. Parkinson started at ground zero and built his practice to 250 patients in less than four months. To date, his website has received more than 7 million hits. The 31-year-old doctor says the key is that he offers what consumers want: a personal relationship with their physician.
“[New patients] call me because there’s a problem, so I spend a while solving the problem and then move on to getting to know them as a person,” Dr. Parkinson explains. “That’s really what medicine is about. It’s not treating episodic problems. To me, it’s more treating the health and wellbeing of a patient with whom you have a personal relationship.”
For a more in-depth profile of Dr. Parkinson visit MDNG.
Professional SatisfactionBeyond what patients want, Dr. Parkinson says that running his practice in this ‘virtual’ manner has enabled him to have what physicians want. That includes money, freedom, efficiency, quality and—as Aretha Franklin would say—“respect.”
“My overhead was less than 5%,” says Dr. Parkinson. “I don’t have to see that many patients to make a good dollar. But to me, that’s not what it’s about. I really want quality relationships; I want to be valued in society. I don’t want to be looked at as a $5 co-pay; I want to be seen as something of an investment. And I want freedom so that some conglomerate insurance company doesn’t tell me how to practice medicine. I know how to practice medicine.”
Speaking of which, in early January 2007, Dr. Parkinson put his practice on hold to accept the position of chief medical officer with Myca, a Canadian-based firm that is developing a consumer brand of healthcare delivery called Hello Health.
“What we’re doing is developing the technology platform that can power a practice such as mine,” says Dr. Parkinson. “It can power a house-call practice as well as a brick-and-mortar practice; one where a doctor has an all-in-one platform to communicate with patients the way patients want to communicate. It’s a brand of healthcare delivery targeted at the consumer, not from a healthcare perspective, but from a brand perspective, much like NetFlix or iTunes.”
But, adds Dr. Parkinson, the technology platform is also aimed at physicians, “because the real primary consumer in healthcare is the doctor, who can then arm patients with healthcare consumer information.”
Remembering the Roots
Dr. Parkinson says he plans to relaunch his practice in early June 2008. He still treats his patients who have already signed on, but has put a temporary hold on taking in new patients. He plans to keep his practice relatively small regardless, taking on no more than approximately 1,000 patients.
“[Launching this practice has] given me a huge amount of professional satisfaction, knowing that I started something that was pretty unique,” says Dr. Parkinson. “It seems like society as a whole is kind of encouraging my ideas, and that’s a mix of personal and professional nirvana.”
Ed Rabinowitz is a veteran healthcare reporter and writer. He welcomes comments at email@example.com.
31%—Percentage of physicians who say they currently communicate with patients via e-mail.(Manhattan Research)