By Michelle Pelletier Marshall, Correspondent, The Daily News of Newburyport, Mar 4, 2017
ROWLEY – Who hasn’t left a doctor’s office feeling like their doctor didn’t fully listen or give them enough time to really address their issues? One local doctor – Dr. George Papanicolaou or “Dr. George” as he is known – is seeking to change that by offering concierge or membership style care.
Offered through his practice at Cornerstone Family Practice at 303C Haverhill St., Cornerstone Personal Health is providing this membership style relationship between doctor and patient. Also called direct primary care, this method of practicing has been gaining momentum over the last two decades. Even with the increase, estimates of doctors offering the service are low, with the American Academy of Family Physicians reporting that only 2 percent of its 68,000 members offer direct care.
In the concierge-style relationship, doctors commit to limit the number of patients they have to ensure adequate time and availability for each one, and collect a fee so certain services can be covered, bypassing some insurance requirements and freeing up time for more personal and convenient care than a traditional practice.
For an annual fee – at Papanicolaou’s office, costs range from $1,200 to $2,000 per year, depending on individual versus family plans, in addition to typical co-pays – members get 24/7 access to the doctor through email and phone. They also receive first-serve appointments that have no pre-determined time allotment, access to a nutritionist and physical therapist, who build customized plans based on the individual, stress counseling, and a host of screening tests to pinpoint medical issues.
For Papanicolaou, this is the type of service he’s dreamed of offering since he knew, at the age of 12, he wanted to be a doctor.
“This style of service allows me to bring in functional medicine, looking for the root cause of the disease, rather than treating the symptoms,” he said, noting that it’s a “whole health wellness” view where the extra time spent with a patient allows for examination of the entire composition of who the patient is – work, home life, nutrition, exercise, stressors and more.
“Unfortunately, health care has become more about metrics and is financially driven by legislators and healthcare plans, making it difficult to focus on the patient as a whole,” he said. “My goal with this relational style approach is to help my patients be healthier through lifestyle changes and to live a robust, optimum lifestyle.”
He notes that people might say that they don’t need concierge medicine and the lifestyle interventions, but he argues that’s only if you assume being healthy means the absence of disease. “Health is really ‘are you doing all you can to have the energy and vibrance to live optimally day to day and be protecting your body so that it’s the healthiest it can be as you age?’” he said.
That goal, he noted, is not achieved by going to the doctor once a year but is crafted over time with a doctor who is thinking in a way that helps you produce a lifestyle of health.
“This doesn’t happen in traditional style medicine where we treat symptoms and disease with medication, procedures and surgery. I’m trying to lead with health and avoid disease … it’s more of a means to an end,” he said.
Papanicolaou points to a patient, a young mother who has four children, and is feeling depressed, lethargic and generally unwell. Rather than just prescribing a pharmaceutical solution, through the commitment of time allowed with the concierge style relationship, Papanicolaou was able to delve into some of the stressors in her life and provide advanced testing to discover that her adrenal functions were unbalanced from extreme stress. With a program of improved nutrition, exercise and stress management techniques, this patient gets well without medication in just a couple of months.
“When you choose this membership model, you’re partnering with me to create a revolution in healthcare, and to really get the kind of care that’s going to make a huge difference in how well you feel and how well you age,” he said.
Papanicolaou, who graduated from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and is affiliated with Anna Jacques Hospital, has been practicing medicine for more than 20 years. He opened his practice in Rowley in 2010, and began offering concierge style care in October 2015, though his office still provides traditional care as well. Cornerstone Personal Health and Cornerstone Family Practice are members of Steward Health Care Network.
Anyone interested in learning more about Cornerstone Personal Health is invited to attend the Cornerstone Lecture Series:
In Sickness and In Health: Why you should choose a Doctor who will be your Partner for Life
The Art and Science of Functional Medicine as it applies to Gut Health and Weight Loss
Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Mission Oak Grill in Newburyport, MA.
For more information, visit cornerstonepersonalhealth.com/rsvp.