RANCHO MIRAGE – Dr. Vinita Verghese is tailor-made for Eisenhower Primary Care Concierge, which she begins on Feb. 1 at Eisenhower Health, according to some of her patients.
She will relocate from her Palm Springs-based office, where she has been affiliated with Eisenhower Primary Care 365 for the past several years, to the main Eisenhower Health campus in Rancho Mirage.
Primary Care Concierge is a medical practice dedicated to a patient’s personal health care needs 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Patients have access to their concierge physician through regular office visits, in-home visits if medically needed, through a secure online portal, one-on-one phone calls, and text messages. Patients will receive their physician’s personal cell phone number and have access to same-day appointments.
Healthcare consumers who want personalized health care have been on a growing waiting list vying for a coveted spot in Eisenhower Health’s Primary Care Concierge medical practice, which began Jan. 1, 2018 with one physician, Dr. David Ko.
To meet the growing demand, Eisenhower Health is adding a second physician, Verghese, on the roster of Primary Care Concierge. She has been a part of Eisenhower Primary Care 365 for nearly a decade. There are plans to expand the subscription model even further, David Renker, director of Ambulatory Services and Special Programs at Eisenhower Health, told Uken Report.
Verghese, who has been practicing medicine for 32 years, is no stranger to the concierge model. Prior to joining Eisenhower Health in 2012, she had been in private practice since 1993. In her office on Farrell Drive she offered a hybrid model of concierge service and fee-for-service.
In her small, one-physician office, she developed an exceptional and powerful reputation for being thorough, kind, compassionate, and attentive. Her focus has always been, is, and will be on prevention.
Now, she will return to the model of healthcare she most enjoys – and at which she excels.
“I can’t do emergency house calls, but I can schedule house calls and nursing home visits with this level of care,” Verghese told Uken Report. “Hospital care would be included, so if you were in the hospital, I would pretty much be your physician. Instead of the hospitalist, I would be the admitting doctor.”
When she learned Eisenhower Health was introducing the model, she asked to be a part of it. It gives her time to delve deeper with her patients.
“This style of practice isn’t for everybody,” Verghese said. “Not all doctors want someone to have their cell phone. It takes a certain person with an interest in this type of practice.”
She has earned a reputation for taking on complicated cases and enjoys a medical challenge – in good measure.
“I don’t know if I’d say I prefer those all the time. I like to have a large variety,” Verghese said. “Even if someone is not a complicated case, that doesn’t mean they don’t need the same time and attention. There could be a young, healthy, 30-year-old walking in, and they could take me more time than a disastrous case, because they’ve got a lot of issues that aren’t obvious. Just because they’re not having a heart attack, doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot of stuff to deal with. Sometimes I spend even more time with them than the others.”
Amid the variety, Verghese said she likes a test of her abilities.
“I like to figure things out, and ultimately see if I can improve that person’s life,” Verghese said. “That’s ultimately what it’s all about.”
Her reputation expands to taking cases no other physician will accept.
“I remember one of the patients that I got called in for,” Verghese said. “This was a person that no doctor would take on because this family was difficult. They fired their doctor. I came in. I think I must have spent a million hours on that case, but it takes a lot to develop that trust with somebody, especially when things have gone wrong, and they don’t trust the medical system. But we still have to work with the medical system, because this is a person that has medical needs. That was probably the most challenging case I’ve ever had, but the most interesting and rewarding on the other side of it.”
No doctor would accept the case because the family was so difficult.
“Nobody wants the aggravation,” she said. “Let’s be honest. You don’t usually get just the patient, you get the whole family. But you know what? We’re doing well. It was a good outcome.”
At the time of the interview, Verghese had received a similar case, which she called a “disaster from other people.”
She is a magnet for the difficult cases and the go-to physician for the challenges.
“I think I do it well. I think that’s probably why I get that reputation, that part that allows you to reach out,” Verghese said. “We leave our egos at the door. We just sort of get to work, and say, ‘How do we help this patient?’ I think that’s a talent that I have. It’s just a natural thing that I have. I don’t really care about always being right, or I know more than you, or whatever. It’s, like, let’s figure out how to help this person. I think that’s probably where my best talents come through.”
As a concierge physician, Verghese said she has greater independence.
“I don’t have to wait to see whether we have enough staffing for it, or do we have this, or that, Verghese said. “Those are the things that kind of came for me in my current practice. I’ve kind of had concerns about it. I thought this might be good. I can have more freedom and not be held in a box with a different kind of practice style.”
Longtime patients who have experienced her concierge services of the past welcome her return to the growing model of care.
“She doesn’t just say, ‘Here’s a pill.’ Dr. Verghese looks to all remedies of treatment, views the entire body system as one, and does not just focus on the one area that’s bothering you,” said one patient. Due to patient confidentiality and the HIPPA privacy rule, the patient asked not to be identified.
The concierge model, the patient, said, allows you more time and attention with the physician. It provides more time for patient education.
“You develop a more personal relationship,” the patient said. “She also helps coordinate your care with your other doctors regarding the best approach to address your condition and issues. She is more attentive and involved in your care and looking for healthy outcomes.”
One of the features the patient especially values is the ability to contact Verghese directly about any medical questions or issues that arise and receive a prompt reply.
Concierge physicians have admitting privileges and if you’re admitted to Eisenhower Health, Ko and Verghese will be your physician. You won’t be handed off to a hospitalist who is unfamiliar with your medical history.
“It’s having the peace of mind knowing that if you end up in the ER, or have to be admitted to the hospital, she knows your medical history and issues inside and out,” the patient said. “She will be there to treat and take care of you, instead of someone new who has no idea about your prior health history.”
The hallmark of concierge medicine is the personal, trusted relationships that concierge physicians build with their patients. Bonds between patients and their doctors are forged in large part because of the time physicians can spend with their patients. Concierge physicians have a smaller patient panel and patients tend to receive longer appointments.
The goal for Drs. Verghese and Ko is have between 350 and 400 patients. A smaller patient panel means longer appointment times. Exactly how long depends on the patient.
The longer appointments, same-day appointments, home visits as medically needed, round-the-clock access to your physician all comes with a price, of course. Patients will be charged $2,500 annually.
For more information about Eisenhower Primary Care Concierge, call (760) 610-7347.
About Dr. Verghese
Vinita Verghese, MD, Board Certified in Internal Medicine earned her medical degree from the Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Allentown Affiliated Hospitals in Pennsylvania, according to her biography on Eisenhower Health’s website.
Initially, Dr. Verghese considered psychology but, after taking pre-med courses — in which she excelled and coupled with some soul-searching, she felt a calling to medicine. Since heart disease is prevalent in her family, she entered medical school with the idea of specializing in cardiology. “After considering a specialty in cardiology, I realized that I would be limited to a one-organ system, and I was more interested in the total care of patients. I am drawn to variety and decided that internal medicine would offer a broader range of disease-states in which to work and allow me a more relationship-based practice.”
Affiliated with Eisenhower Medical Center for the past several years, Dr. Verghese has had a boutique/concierge practice which allowed her great flexibility in adapting to the special needs of her patients. She will continue this approach to patient relations as an Eisenhower Primary Care 365 physician.
“My career in medicine has led me away from a disease-model to one that promotes prevention, healthy living and wellness. My relationship with patients and their families is a partnership where we both participate to achieve the highest quality of care possible.”