Building on the strengths and successes of previous Heal Thy Practice meetings, this year’s program brings together pioneers of integrative medicine and innovative, health-focused practice systems. Over two and a half days, they’ll share their years of experience and practical wisdom on how to create practices that put the health, the wealth—and most importantly, the joy⎯back into clinical practice.
Satisfaction in a medical career comes from helping patients get better, seeing them heal, and empowering them to maintain their health. Heal Thy Practice empowers physicians to re-shape their practices to better serve their patients and fulfill their true calling as healers and educators.
“Whether it’s through a direct-pay model, a membership or “concierge” type practice, or even within conventional insurance-based practice, we need to re-focus on what our patients really need to get healthy and stay healthy,” says Steven Masley, MD, the 2011 Heal Thy Practice conference chairman. Dr. Masley is founder and director of Masley Optimal Health Center (www.drmasley.com), a successful integrative, interdisciplinary practice in St. Petersburg, FL.
Dr. Masley’s “Cutting Edge Nutrition for Primary Care” talks were one of the highlights of Heal Thy Practice 2010. In addition to being board-certified in family medicine, he’s also a trained chef, and he’ll share his boundless enthusiasm for food and the power of good nutrition to transform peoples’ lives. He’s got a wealth of practical experience implementing nutritional strategies in a busy practice. He will also review team-building strategies, the virtues and drawbacks of various practice models, and the tools and technologies he has found most valuable in building a successful integrative practice.
According to Holistic Primary Care’s recent survey of 2,000 US primary care doctors, one in five is considering a major change in practice model. Nearly half of those considering a change are looking at direct-pay models, and 35% are thinking about “concierge” or membership practice.
National statistics show that the direct pay and membership practice sector is growing rapidly, despite the sluggish economy. There are now more than 5,000 direct pay doctors in the US. Heal Thy Practice speakers will explore these non-insurance models in depth.
Among our featured speakers is one of the true pioneers of direct-pay, Dr. Vern Cherewatenko, founder of SimpleCare, one of the nation’s first direct-pay practice networks.
Eleven years ago, he and two other Seattle area primary care doctors realized that their insurance-based practices were actually losing money each year, despite their working ever-harder. Insurance plan restrictions were making it impossible to provide good care. It’s a common, tragic scenario playing out in doctors’ offices all across the country. Dr. Cherewatenko decided to do something about it.
In his talk, “Keeping it Simple: The SimpleCare Model of Direct-Pay Primary Care,” Dr. Cherewatenko will describe the nuts and bolts of direct pay, the value it creates for patients, and the way it has transformed his personal and professional life.
“A direct-pay model allows me to practice the kind of medicine that I feel is in the best interests of my patients. I work for only one person, and that’s the person in the room with me. Not their insurance plans. I don’t have health plans telling me what I can and cannot do. I don’t have government payors telling me what I can and cannot do. I’m able to give each patient the type of care that they really need,” he explained. SimpleCare now has a roster of roughly 1,500 physicians nationwide, who serve tens of thousands of patients.
Working for Patients, Not Payors
Direct pay need not be expensive “luxury” care---in fact by eliminating egregious administrative overhead that insurers levy on physicians’ offices, direct pay can actually be a less expensive option, especially for people with complex medical conditions.
“You have to get good at getting patients better,” says Dr. Kent Holtorf, director of the Holtorf Medical Group, a thriving practice specializing in the care of people with multiple disorders and complex health histories---people with chronic fatigue, endocrine and metabolic disorders. “We’re never the first stop for these patients. They’ve seen, on average, 7 different doctors before they come to us. Ninety percent of them improve after working with us,” says Dr. Holtorf. “If you can help these patients get better, you will have a very successful practice.”
In his lecture, “Working For Your Patients, Not Their Insurance Plans: The Holtorf Model for Optimizing Care of Complex Patients,” Dr. Holtorf will share what he’s learned over decades of successfully treating the type of patients that frustrate most doctors. His comprehensive, replicable model is based on a multi-system approach that incorporates endocrine workup, restoration of healthy GI function, and lifestyle based strategies to improve metabolism. “It’s not a one-symptom, one-drug approach.”
Dr. Holtorf said that care of these complex patients whom conventional medicine has failed, represents a real opportunity for integrative primary care doctors. Building a direct-pay practice that serves them well is a far better option than selling out to a hospital network, something far too many solo and small group doctors are considering.
Finding Fresh Revenue Streams
Leaving insurance-based medicine for an alternative model is not the only option for practice transformation. Many clinicians find ways to make integrative practice work within an insurance-based model. The key is to find new revenue streams based around services for which patients are willing to pay out of pocket, or services for which insurers will pay but which have traditionally been the province of specialists.
There are many such options such as office-based sonography, retinal scanning, home apnea monitoring, advanced lipid testing, functional stool analysis, nutrigenomic testing, breast thermography, laser-based procedures, cryosurgery, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, hydrotherapy and many others. Evaluating them and determining which would be best suited to your practice and patients can be challenging.
Lee Surkin, MD, an integrative cardiologist in Greenville, NC, who is president of Cardiac Wellness Specialists, Carolina Sleep, and New Beginnings Medical Weight Loss Centre. Dr. Surkin will share his lessons learned from years of experience assessing many different techniques and technologies related to preventing and treating cardiovascular and cardiometabolic disorders.
“With so much downward pressure on reimbursement these days, you’re almost forced to develop alternative revenue streams if you want to remain in independent practice. You want things that allow you to do right for your patients, that enhances your care, and that also adds additional revenue.” The right choices can make a world of difference in the financial viability of a practice. The wrong choices can be a big setback. “I’ve experienced both,” he said.
It takes vision, know-how and more than a bit of courage to take steps to transform your practice into one that embodies your ideals and enables you to provide true health care for your patients. Many physicians in this country feel stuck, recognizing that something’s gone wrong in healthcare, but feeling helpless to change. It need not be that way.
This year, Heal Thy Practice will offer a unique opportunity to get “Unstuck.” Dr. James Gordon, founder/director of the Center for Mind Body Medicine will lead a special Sunday morning workshop offering mind-body exercises to help you identify and overcome the inner roadblocks that keep you from moving toward your ideal medical practice.
Holistic Primary Care is thrilled to have Dr. Gordon, a true visionary in the integrative medicine field, teach at Heal Thy Practice, and to help CMBM celebrate 20 years of transformative work all across the globe. This special experiential workshop will be the highlight of HTP‘s always popular “Sunday Brunch” session.
Other Featured Speakers at HTP 2011 include:
Pamela Wible, MD: Envisioning & Creating an Ideal Clinic for Your Community: The most important factor in transforming your practice is your vision for what it ought to be. It is helpful to get input from your friends and neighbors about what they feel your community needs and what their ideal health clinic would look and feel like. Dr. Wible, a Eugene, OR, family physician, held forums and town meetings as a way of soliciting input and engaging her community in the co-creation of a better health care setting. The results have been sensational, for patients and physician alike.
JJ Virgin, CNS: Optimizing Weight Loss Outcomes: Helping patients lose weight is one of the most important, but also one of the most frustrating aspects of primary care. With hundreds of fad diets, hormone-based weight loss programs, and surgical options now available, it’s daunting to figure out which ones are truly safe, effective and right for your patients. New genomic tests can provide much needed help in guiding patients toward the approaches most likely to work for them. JJ Virgin, one of the country’s most sought-after fitness coaches and weight-management experts, will explore the leading edge of genomically-guided testing, nutrition science and practice development.
Alan Dumoff, JD: Medicolegal Issues in Integrative Medicine: A veteran faculty-member of both previous Heal Thy Practice conferences, Mr. Dumoff will return to update attendees on key medicolegal issues and precedent-setting cases. Mr. Dumoff’s sessions are always standing-room only, and the Q&A always provides a wealth of legal advice and real-world guidance.
Philippa Cheetham, MD: Active Holistic Surveillance for Prostate Cancer: How to Keep Men in YOUR Office…Not the Oncologic Surgeon’s: Men generally avoid doctors until something’s really wrong. Prostate cancer is one of those “somethings.” But all too often, these men end up undergoing expensive, debilitating and ineffective surgeries, when they would be better served with a comprehensive lifestyle-based program aimed at checking disease progression. Dr. Cheetham will describe her work with Dr. Aaron Katz at Columbia University’s Center for Holistic Urology, and share the Active Holistic Surveillance protocols that enable primary care doctors to provide better care for men living with prostate cancer.
Steve Wickham: Successful Marketing Strategies for Your Integrative Medical Practice: Many doctors are afraid to even utter the “M” word. Yet marketing is one of the most important elements in building a successful integrative practice. And it need not be onerous, offensive or expensive. Marketing is really about defining your core values and the unique features of your practice, and then making sure your community knows about them. Steve Wickham is a marketing experts with vast and diverse experience in medical marketing who will provide you with a lively marketing intensive, grounded in real-world success strategies.
The two and a half day program, which will be approved for up to 15 category 1 CME credits, also features industry-sponsored breakout workshops, delicious and nutritious breakfasts and lunches, a beautiful Friday evening gala dinner reception with live music from HPC’s own Meg Sinclair and Ascending, and the special Sunday Brunch and “Getting Unstuck” workshop with Jim Gordon.