Lauren Burch, a Plano mother with two children, was visiting relatives in Lubbock. Her infant son Owen became ill and could not seem to shake a viral stomach illness. She emailed Dr. Sander Gothard of Village Health Partners in Plano. He sent back instructions to Burch to see a local physician and advised the Lubbock doctor about the child’s medical background and clues as to what might be wrong. Burch says the email exchange averted potentially serious consequences.
Burch pays VHP $100 annually for unlimited email access to Gothard, and queries him about four times a month. Owen, now 2, and brother Parker, 5, generate many questions for the doctor. How much Tylenol should they be given? How high should the fever get before I bring him in? Burch, who is expecting a third child, estimates these email exchanges have prevented more than half of potential office visits. She says her husband Kevin doesn’t like to go to the doctor and uses email communication whenever possible. About 5 percent of VHP’s patients pay for the extra access.
Welcome to 21st century medicine. VHP was the first family practice in Texas to become a federally-certified patient-centered medical home (PCMH).
Health-care experts are placing a lot of faith in medical homes. The term is off-putting to some because it sounds like “nursing home.” However, it is simply a physician’s office organized in a different way.
Read the full feature by Steve Jacob, originally published in D Magazine’s 2012 Collin County Medical Directory. Illustration by Koren Shadmi.