March 19, 2007

To My Dear Patients,

Can you believe it? Another year has passed. It’s time again to get together and give you the annual update. As you may know, each year, we at Treasure Coast Dermatology (TCD) have a party that we call our Patient Appreciation Party. I send an invitation along with a letter detailing some of the happenings at TCD.

I have to admit, when I had the first party, as a solo practitioner, the idea for having it was not mine. I had just opened my new office in Fort Pierce, and as is customary, I had an office party for the physicians in the area. Only two other doctors showed up. I sent the extra food home with my staff, and talked to several patients about it.

One of them told me his view of my mistake, he said, “Doc, it’s not other doctors who make your practice, it’s the patients who do. You should have a party for us!”

So one month later, I sent out invitations; closed down the parking lot in Fort Pierce, and had another party. This time, no doctors allowed, only my patients. 200 patients showed up. We had live music, food, and a really great time. Since then, we have had a party every year. Two years ago, between the three doctors in the practice, we had more than 2,000 people come. Last year, we did get rained out, but the food and drinks were donated to local firehouses and food banks for the poor. We had over 2,500 confirmed R.S.V.P.s. This year, we expect similar numbers.

In the past, we have had a big problem with party crashers. We used to leave the number of guests in the R.S.V.P. space blank, but, at times, we had some 20 to 30 people attend per invitation. So this year, guests are limited to one guest along with yourself. Let’s keep the TCD family a close-knit one.

Another important aspect of our practice at TCD is our support of the community. We have a philosophy: if you have a thousand dollars to give, and you give one dollar to a thousand deserving organizations, you won’t change their lives very much. But if you pick a couple of organizations, and support them wholeheartedly, you can make a difference. Well, we are not trying to change the world, but we are trying to make our little corner of it a more safe and enjoyable place to live, work, and raise our families.

TCD has donated to almost all of the law enforcement agencies on the Treasure Coast. We specifically have picked the canine divisions to support. We feel that these law enforcement officers and their dogs have a vital and visible effect on our community. We have bought bullet proof vests for many of them (the dogs, not the officers), have sponsored trips to workshops for the officers and their dogs, and have even donated money to help replace dogs that were hurt and injured, or like some of us, retired to a more peaceful lifestyle. We will continue to support these officers to the best of our ability.

We have also sponsored The Glenn Miller Orchestra which performed at Tradition Square in early January, and Trent Wilmon along with Wade Hayes and the Florida, Bluegrass Express who performed in Okeechobee on New Year’s Eve. Music brings back good memories, good times, and is something we all can enjoy. It brings us together as a community. We look forward to continuing to sponsor these events as well as local public radio.

On to the news of the practice:

As many of you know, Dr. Rogers is, at the time of writing this letter, 9 months pregnant. Her last day at TCD was March 9th. She is leaving TCD and will have her baby, and as she makes her future plans, we wish her the best. We all know that she will be a wonderful mother.

Dr. Sanders will be taking over her duties in Port Saint Lucie, and I will be handling her duties in Stuart. Dr. Sanders’ practice is doing well, and he recently bought a home on the Treasure Coast. I have gotten many letters from patients regarding the excellent quality of his care. As you may be aware, Dr. Sanders is also a lawyer. The loss to the legal profession is a gain to the patients of the Treasure Coast.

My life has also changed quite a bit. I got married last August to Cammy Bothwell, now Cammy loannides. We are living in Vero with my two dogs, and her two cats; all of us happy and peaceful under one roof. Thanks to the patients who sent us cards with their wishes and prayers. We are blessed and lucky to have you in our lives.

Cammy will be at the party, and I would love for you to introduce yourselves. Tell her what a great guy I am ….. new husbands could always use a little support!

I also use this letter to write about some current issues affecting the medical community.

I feel my past letters have been misrepresented about a couple of issues. The first of these is the use of “physician extenders”. Some practices in the area use physician’s assistants to see most of their patients. These patients don’t have timely access to a doctor and sometimes never even see one. We at TCD feel that a doctor should see all of his patients. We are not against the use of p.a.’s, but we feel that the term “physician assistant” does not mean “physician replacement”. These assistants, dressed in white coats and scrubs, no matter how nice and friendly they are, should not be replacing doctors. We at TCD feel that the appropriate use of these assistants is not too hard to accomplish. We wish more of our co~leagues felt the same.

Obviously, this stance gets us fewer patient referrals from other practices that use “physician extenders”. We are OK with that. We feel we offer the best medical care. That is why you come to us, and that is what we will always strive to give to you.

The second issue is the new proliferation of Medicare HMO’s. These are of special interest to many of our senior patients because of the spiraling costs of medications.

While these two issues might seem unrelated; they are actually closely related. Many people are pushed to join an HMO and give up having their choice of a physician because of the high cost of medications! All of us now know that the exact same medications that we take in this country can be bought in Europe and Canada, often for pennies on the dollar.

We are being put in a position of having to go to the office of a doctor and often instead see a “physician extender” (that’s how the HMO saves money) who then gives us a prescription that we could otherwise not afford.

We need to push our representatives to give us a fair price on the medicines that we need. Some drug companies spend more on marketing than on research and development! It has always been the policy of this practice to not accept any gifts from drug representatives except for samples. No free lunches, dinners, or parties. These free things are paid for by your hard earned dollars buying overpriced medications. We feel it too. All of our employees have health insurance; these premiums have skyrocketed with much of this increase going to pay for medications. Reform on this issue is needed.

Also, for those of you signing up with Medicare HMO’s, many of the sales people for these organizations are very aggressive. These decisions are very important. Ask for everything in writing. Don’t believe verbal promises. Often, these salespeople are more concerned with their paychecks (yup, they’ve got quotas to fill) than your health.

Saying that, we at TCD are always trying to get better. Probably the most common complaint we have in our office is dealing with the wait time.

We can improve our waiting times. We have had an open door policy in our practice. What we meant by that was, if you were an established patient having an emergency, we would squeeze you in immediately. Over the years though, for some, our open door welcome simply meant arriving for a regular check-up without first making an appointment.

We have a new policy. If it is TRULY an emergency, please come in as soon as possible.

But if it can wait, we will keep appointments open at 4:30 for walk-in patients. Just call us, and let us know that you are coming. We won’t turn you away, and we won’t go home until all of you are taken care of. Help us take care of you in the best way possible. Part of that is keeping waiting times to a minimum.

Dr. Sanders and I and the whole TCD staff are looking forward to seeing you at the party.