Although this post may look like an ad, I’m actually putting it up as a public service, at least for those who live in or around Chicago. For some time now, I’ve had as my primary care physician Dr. Alex Lickerman at the University of Chicago, a doctor of enormous skill and empathy. Although I’m a healthy person, like all of us I’ve seen a number of doctors in my life, but have no hesitation in pronouncing Alex not only the best doctor I’ve ever encountered, but also the Official Website Physician™. He’s not only up on all the recent medical advances, but also a secular Buddhist who uses in his practice what he learned over years of study and meditation. And that isn’t woo but compassion: Alex spends a lot of time talking to patients—much more time than simply examining them, for he feels that proper treatment requires that he learn about their lifestyles, previous and ongoing medical treatment and medications, their concerns, other symptoms, and so on. In most appointments there’s simply no time to do this.
I’ve sent a lot of friends to Alex, and to a person they’ve pronounced him superb. His skills got him promoted (at a young age) to Director of Primary Care at the University of Chicago Hospitals, but then, after 8 years, he took to bureaucracy, becoming in 2011 head of Student Health and Counseling at the University while still practicing one day a week.
Alex tells me that, after taking his recertification boards, he realized that he was still deeply in love with medicine, and decided to return to primary care practice. But at the University, like most places, he realized that he simply wasn’t given time to treat patients as he wanted, for to make a profit most medical practices and hospitals must turn patients over quickly. As he describes in a white paper on how to save primary care in America, Alex notes that the average length of a primary-care appointment in the U.S. is only 15.7 minutes. That pathetically short time leads primary care doctors to shunt patients off to specialists, or to order unnecessary tests or hospitalization—and that wastes a lot of money and time, both on the patients’ and medical system’s part.
And so Alex decided to strike out on his own, founding a “direct primary care” practice, ImagineMD, that will begin on January 1, 2016. If you’re familiar with the concept of direct primary care medicine (so called because there’s no third-party insurance), you pay out of your own pocket for access to a doctor (in this case $135/month), an amount not reimbursable by insurance. But then all tests and referrals ordered by the primary-care physician (there will be two doctors besides Alex) do fall under your normal medical insurance. What you’re paying for here—and I was the first patient to sign up—is 24/7 access to a doctor (you get their cellphone numbers to call), appointments within a day or two, and appointments that scheduled to be 1.5 hours long: six times longer than average. And you get the kind of medical care that everyone should have in an ideal world.
Alex will be limited to 350 patients: less than a quarter of the normal load (patient loads for a primary-care physician in the U.S. are between 1500 and 4000 people per doctor!). The other two physicians will each be capped at 600 patients. And while you have to pay out of your own pocket, this kind of care may also save you substantial money (co-pays and so on) for unnecessary tests, referrals, and hospitalizations often ordered by overworked and time-limited doctors.
Alex didn’t ask me to write this post: I’m doing it to give readers the chance to participate in a recently developed form of medical care and see if it’s right for them. (If it isn’t, you can stop going and paying, with no questions asked). You can sign up at the ImagineMD site, where you can read about the services, fees, see the FAQ, and read Alex’s white paper (link above). If you have questions, there’s a “Contact us” page. If you are interested but want to talk to the doctor with questions or concerns, Alex will be glad to call you if you put your phone number on the “contact us” site.
The practice will be in Chicago’s West Loop, at 10 S. Riverside Plaza Drive.
I’m not known to waste money, so believe me, it’s a high recommendation when I’m willing to pay for this kind of medicine. But having interacted with Alex over the years, I can’t imagine having any other primary care doctor, and I’m letting readers know about this before the patient panel fills up. While I’m an advocate of socialized or government-sponsored medicine (and have recently enrolled, as required. in Medicare), this isn’t what we have in the U.S., with many doctors and hospitals simply refusing to take Medicare patients because government reimbursements are low. And you all know about waiting times for appointments, a serious problem in many countries with socialized medicine.
So, if you live in or around Chicago, want a really good doctor and first-rate medical care, and can afford the $135/month for ImagineMD, I give the practice my highest recommendation. I wanted to be “Patient Zero,” but Alex told me that phrase has unsavory connotations, so I’m now Patient One.