Keyes a doctor who makes house calls

The days of doctors making house calls are back.

Dr. Gregory Keyes is in.

“I went into medical school a long time ago thinking I wanted to be the kind of doctor that was a friend to all my patients,” Keyes said. “(I liked) the whole concept of a doctor who becomes involved in the lives of the patients.”

He laughingly wonders if it came from watching too much of the kind and caring “Marcus Welby, MD” on television, but then adds, “My father was a physician and had a lot of those qualities.”

For a more patient-friendly experience, family practitioner Keyes opened up a private practice May 2003 in downtown Winslow after practicing for more than 20 years at the Virginia Mason Clinic.

Keyes maintains a “membership practice,” in which patients pay a monthly fee that allows more time for consultations, same-day appointments, after-hours care or consultation and lab results by telephone within two to three working days.

A member services coordinator assists with non-medical items such as appointments, follow-ups and reminder calls. Taking advantage of the modern, email or telephone consultations are free, and, as needed, patients may be able to log into a personal website to retrieve information.

“I’ve always believed the best way to take care of patients is to be more available rather than less available and to try to take down barriers that keep you from talking to the doctor,” Keyes said. “We encourage patients to call at night if they have questions, or (to) email.”

Membership practices are part of a fairly recent movement for doctors to provide more personalized services by finding additional sources of revenue to support the practice.

Aside from membership fees, payment for services is similar to other clinics, with the office accepting most insurance. Also, patients who are self-insured or paying large deductibles receive a discount for cash payment.

At most clinics, Keyes says, the way physicians work is very insurance-driven, with the insurance company telling doctors how much they will pay them for each unit of business – from 28 to 50 cents per dollar billed to the patient.

To cover expenses and doctor wages, a doctor has to see 20-30 patients a day.

With a membership practice, Keyes can limit consultations to 12-15 patients a day for unhurried appointments.

“That’s what it’s all about,” he said. “I’m more interested in the person than the disease. For me, that’s the fulfilling part, the relationship with the patient over the years.”

For patients who have difficulty coming to the office, Keyes devotes one afternoon a week to making house calls. He says he also tries to make at least one house call to families with children to “get a feel for what their lives are like.”

“It’s something I always wanted to do,” Keyes said. “I’m excited to do it, it makes medicine fun to practice... It gives me a more real view of the patient and what makes him an individual.”

Keyes says he hopes to fill up membership in the practice over the next few months, and if there is enough demand, to bring in another physician.

“A doctor ought to be partner with each patient to optimize care and health,” he said. “A doctor isn’t just there for when you’re sick. A lot has to do with patient preferences.

“It needs to be worked through with the doctor for a total health care plan that fits you as an individual.”

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