, Newburyport, MA


July 18, 2014

Doctor at the door

Family physician's new business model includes house calls

When Dr. Mark Su began burning out as a family practice physician, he decided the problem was with the health care system and not with medicine.

Su wanted to return to the basics of a trusting patient-doctor relationship developed over time, which he said encourages collaborative conversations and patient empowerment.

“My practice style is to make patients as aware as possible of what the stakes are and what the options for their given needs are,” he said. “And make a team conversation, make an engaging interactive process with them. That is hard to do in a seven-minute visit.”

In response to the intrusion of “insurance-driven factors in interviews,” Su has opened a new family practice that reintroduces house calls and ventures into new technologies like diagnostic picture texting.

“I wanted to create old-school medicine with new technology,” he said. “I can now say, ‘Send me a picture.’ It is good for rashes, conjunctivitis, stings and Lyme disease.”

Each patient comes with an agenda that needs the space and time to be forthcoming, Su said.

“The patient usually has two to three things they want to talk about,” he said. “They want to be heard. They want an agreeable solution that they are comfortable with.”

His transition to a new model took him more than a year to design and required that he leave the practice that he had been with for more than seven years. But he said that the “idealist” in him didn’t want to submit to increased documentation and less time spent with patients.

“When people have a trusting relationship with their provider, their general health is better, they are more motivated to make changes, more apt to stick with the game plan,” Su said. “Empowerment is a huge factor.”

Su calls himself a “personal care physician,” as opposed to the traditional primary care physician, to emphasize the role of developing personal relationships with patients. He routinely gives his cellphone number to patients and plans to keeps his practice at a volume that can accommodate same-day visits. He has around 300 patients now and plans to accept up to 700, he said.

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