The dedicated doctor knows that he must be both scientist and humanitarian; his most agonizing decisions lie in the field of human relations. — Dr. David B. Allman
Getting older isn’t an option. It just happens. And, that basic fact pervades our current wellness culture and healthcare system. Whether you are staring down the so called golden years yourself, watching family members and friends make those preparations, or just being proactive about wanting to age gracefully, experiencing a healthy and full life is a top priority.
“The problem with our current approach to healthcare,” remarks Dr. Murthy Gokula of Stay Home I Will Concierge Care, “is that the system isn’t about health at all. Our current system is designed to respond to sickness rather than support health. This is why so many of us healthcare professionals are seeking alternative models for our patients.”
Seeking New Approaches to Patient Care
Dr. Gokula isn’t new to the morass that, for many, has become the healthcare system. Earning his medical degree at Siddhartha Medical College in India, Gokula completed his family medicine residency at Sparrow Hospital/Michigan State University (MSU) in Lansing, MI. After his residency, he continued his training at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor,
where he completed a fellowship in geriatrics.
“Especially when you work with older patients,” says Gokula earnestly, “large and ponderous insurance and hospital systems can be exhausting and confusing. The last thing people want to do in retirement is spend hours a week wading through healthcare decisions. Most of my patients want two things: the capacity to stay at home and the power to speak to a healthcare professional when they need to, not when it is convenient for the provider.”
Those two things lead Dr. Gokula to strike out with a new approach to healthcare. He chose a concierge model. This allows the patient to pay a monthly fee for access to all of his services. “I chose this as a blended model. My patients still have insurance. My practice adds core value to their healthcare services and grants a fuller range of access to their doctor.”
His approach is quite simple: put the “health” back in healthcare. “We live in a system of reactionary care,” says Gokula. “My goal is to stop finding a ‘pill for every ill’. If we stop treating sickness and help people live in health, then occasional illness is both manageable and less traumatic. My foundational philosophy is that the patient is the boss and I am the coach. It doesn’t matter if their health goals are to simply stay at home or do extensive travel into their 90’s, my job is to be their professional expert on how to achieve those ambitions.”
Something Old, Something New
Gokula has a self acknowledged zest for life. His interests and hobbies are patterned after this positivity and include spirituality studies, meditation, art and Indian Karaoke. “I see no reason to limit our enjoyment of life or our tools when practicing medicine,” claims Gokula unapologetically. “Yoga, mediation, herbs, essential oils, diet, eastern techniques, exercise, physical and emotional therapies…all have places in the support of a healthy lifestyle. A doctor should be more than just a person who monitors test results and scolds people about what they eat.”
Even as the good doctor embraces older and traditional techniques, he also revels in new and innovative ways of helping his patients. Spend five minutes in his office and you will find yourself hooked up to a remote monitoring device.
“Our current technologies are amazing,” says Gokula with obvious relish. “Bio monitoring remotely has given doctors potent tools in helping our patients make good decisions and stay on track with their health goals. When I can check a patient’s vitals and speak with them face to face on their tablet, phone, or computer and get results in real time, together we can talk about what they are feeling.”
Becoming a patient of Stay Home I Will grants access to all of this remote technology. That alone gives Gokula an appeal across age groups. “For people who are younger and active, they mostly just need a ‘go-no go’ when it comes to their healthcare questions. ‘Yes,’ I need to see you in the office…’no’ I think you will be fine but I will check back tomorrow. This saves time, money, and resources of both patient and physician.”
For the older patient, remote monitoring and consultation is critical. Gokula continues, “For many of my patients, getting out to see a doctor can be as traumatic as their initial need to speak with a doctor. Arranging transportation, getting ready, arriving on time, sitting in waiting rooms…all can be a burden to the elderly patient. However, before we even start that process I can make initial assessments remotely and, if necessary, actually go to the patient.”
Most importantly, all of these tools blend together to create a personalized care. “Doctors are supposed to know and be involved with their patients. We are health professionals and caring goes with the job. I strive to listen to, know and value each of my patients as individuals, not just a collection of symptoms or as nameless clients. Caring about their needs, goals and day to day enjoyment of life is paramount to my practice.”
Meet Me at The Yurt
Many would consider concierge care as an option only for very wealthy patients. Gokula is looking to change that. “Most concierge practices are blending their models to be more affordable. Our practice has levels of care that provide real options for patients of any age or need.”
Besides access to his services, Gokula is trying to create a viable health community among his patients. Behind his clinic is a full blown yurt that plays host to many interesting classes and activities, including seminars, guided meditation sessions and yoga. “As a doctor I need to do more than just prescribe and recommend. I want to demonstrate the benefits of a broader, holistic approach to healthy living. I needed a space to do that and the yurt seemed like a perfect environment.”
The bottom line is simple: Gokula is building a model of innovative change to managing healthcare. “I am willing to work with insurances of all kinds and with patients who want to explore different healthcare options. The operative word here is ‘willing’. My approach is to never discount a treatment or wellness option just because it doesn’t fall onto a schedule of paid for services. My goal is to be in partnership with my patients…working together to find life enriching solutions.”
Above all, Gokula wants to provide well care, not sick care. “Look, if you are having chest pains, go to the hospital,” he says with earnestness. “However, wouldn’t it be better to not have chest pains at all? Robust health throughout our lives shouldn’t be considered a luxury. It should be an expected outcome of our health system. My job is to work hard in partnership with my patients to turn that expectation into a reality.”