“Dream Physician”

Email instantly connects patients to doctor in concierge practice.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

Dr. Zimmer’s concierge medicine added another chapter to Tom and Margo’s storybook
marriage.

College professors Margo Mastropieri and her husband, Tom Scruggs, retired to Florida in 2014 after years of working at universities in cold climates. In Florida, they live active lifestyles in the warmer temperatures, where they can kayak, swim and boat year-round. Margo and Tom also spend time with friends in book clubs and playing shuffleboard.

But late last year, a sudden health concern interrupted their storybook retirement.

“It was Christmas Day, and Tom and I were entertaining about ten guests for dinner,” Margo recalls. “After dinner, we were sitting on the deck when one of Tom’s legs swelled up like crazy. It nearly doubled in size. We politely said goodnight to our guests and went to the emergency room.

“The doctors at the ER were helpful, but they left us without a clear diagnosis of Tom’s condition. They told us to follow up with his primary care physician. After repeated, unreturned calls and messages to Tom’s doctor, a friend recommended Dr. Zimmer as a highly qualified and responsive physician.”

Michael A. Zimmer, MD, is a board-certified internist at Zimmer Medical Services in St. Petersburg. Dr. Zimmer practices concierge medicine, a practice model in which physicians see fewer patients, which allows them to spend more time with their patients, and makes them accessible at any time via phone call and email.

“Tom set up an appointment with Dr. Zimmer, and it was like a miracle,” Margo reports. “Dr. Zimmer took everything very seriously and put Tom in touch with the appropriate medical specialists to help with his leg.

“At the same time, Dr. Zimmer identified critical health issues with Tom’s heart and kidneys that no one else had ever identified. He made immediate referrals to additional experts who now work with Dr. Zimmer to provide coordinated care for Tom. I believe Dr. Zimmer saved my husband’s life with his expertise.”

When Margo saw how well Dr. Zimmer treated her husband, she established herself as a patient of the doctor as well. It wasn’t long after that Margo turned to the internist when she developed complications following cataract surgery.

“After I had my first eye surgery, I started experiencing strange symptoms,” Margo relates. “I thought maybe I was allergic to the eye drops because my eyes were burning and stinging, like I was pouring gasoline in them. But I was also dizzy and lightheaded.

“The eye surgeon told me to call my primary care physician because those aren’t common symptoms for someone who had cataract surgery. So I contacted Dr. Zimmer, and he immediately spoke to my surgeon and found out what was going on. Then he ordered blood work, which showed I was extremely deficient in sodium and chloride.”

Sodium and chloride are electrolytes, which balance the amount of water in cells. Electrolyte deficiencies can affect the function of nerves and muscles, including the heart. Margo’s deficiency had to be corrected before she could resume cataract surgery on her second eye.

“Dr. Zimmer worked with me for several weeks to come up with a treatment to get my blood levels back to normal,” Margo recounts. “He also ran a lot of tests to be sure there wasn’t any underlying condition. And through it all, I was in almost daily communication with Dr. Zimmer by phone and email. It was remarkable.”

Calm Reassurance

“Margo and I initially corresponded by email,” Dr. Zimmer explains. “The information she provided in her emails directed me to the appropriate blood tests for making a diagnosis. We followed up with an office visit when I determined her sodium level was low. I had her adjust her fluid intake and followed her progress through blood and urine testing.”

“And through it all, I was in almost daily communication with Dr. Zimmer by phone and email. It was remarkable.” – Margo

Dr. Zimmer uses email in other ways as well. He says it’s a good medium for supplementing the patient education he provides in his office. He can use email to further define his patients’ medical conditions, and to describe in detail the various diagnostic procedures and treatments recommended.

“For example, Margo and Tom were worried about Tom’s kidney function after a visit to his kidney specialist,” Dr. Zimmer states. “I sent them an email explaining the terminology and describing the tests that were used to classify Tom’s kidney condition, and they were both reassured by that. It also saved them a visit to the office for a consultation to discuss Tom’s test results.”

Dr. Zimmer considers email another tool he can use to be more efficient and effective in delivering patient care. Using it, he was able to speed up Margo’s evaluation so he could get her treatment started and her symptoms resolved quickly. The internist believes email can help him reach a diagnosis in a more timely fashion in a majority of cases.

“In internal medicine, about ninety percent of the diagnosis depends on the history and the labs, and a smaller percentage depends on the actual physical examination,” the doctor observes. “Email communication expedites the patient’s work-up, so I can quickly reach a diagnosis and begin treatment.

“In the traditional practice setting, physicians wait for patients to come in for an office visit to describe their symptoms, send them for their lab work, have them return to the office to discuss the lab results, and then they can initiate treatment. Using email is a nice way to facilitate communication in my practice and leverage technology to advance my patients’ health care.”

Instantaneous Communication

Margo and Tom like Dr. Zimmer’s concierge approach to care. Margo is especially pleased with the internist’s quick response to her questions and concerns.

“I can communicate with Dr. Zimmer by email or text, or by phone if I need to speak with the office staff, but he’s great with email,” she shares. “He’s so responsive. We get almost instantaneous communication back from him or his staff.

“One day, I was scheduled to have a blood test, but the lab technician said I couldn’t get it because I was supposed to fast, and I drank coffee that morning. But the nurse from Dr. Zimmer’s office told me I didn’t have to fast for the test. To get clarification, I sent Dr. Zimmer a message, and he got right back to me. And that was on a Saturday morning.

“Dr. Zimmer and his staff have been very good to Tom and me,” Margo adds. “We never had a physician who showed such genuine concern for our well-being. Dr. Zimmer’s care and concern were so reassuring during those difficult times in our lives.

“We couldn’t be happier with finding Dr. Zimmer and having him as our doctor. He’s like a dream physician.”

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    • Michael A. Zimmer, MD, MACP

      Michael A. Zimmer, MD, MACP, is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and is a fellow of the American College of Physicians. Dr. Zimmer completed his undergraduate studies at Temple University in Philadelphia, where he grad... Read More