These Mobile Businesses are Changing the Game in Detroit

Running a successful business is tough. Running a successful mobile business can be even more difficult! This week, I participated in a panel discussion that took a deep dive into what it takes to run a successful mobile business in Detroit.

The panel was a part of Build Institute's Open City series, and featured four business owners: Lisa Waud of Pot and Box, Alleah Webb of Drifter Coffee, Ebony Rutherford of Trish's Garage, and Paul Thomas, MD (that's me!) of Plum Health DPC. The panel was expertly moderated by Sarah Donnelly of TechTown Detroit

Build Institute's Open City Panel, featuring Ebony Rutherford, Alleah Webb, Paul Thomas MD, and Lisa Waud. The panel was moderated by Sarah Donnelly. The event was hosted by Build Institute's Christianne Malone.

Build Institute's Open City Panel, featuring Ebony Rutherford, Alleah Webb, Paul Thomas MD, and Lisa Waud. The panel was moderated by Sarah Donnelly. The event was hosted by Build Institute's Christianne Malone.

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Ebony Rutherford of Trish's Garage talked about the choosing the right events to attend, citing that it's easy to lose money by purchasing table space at a poorly attended event. However, turning lemons into lemonade, she would take that time at a slower event to work on her social media production and marketing.

Alleah Webb of Drifter Coffee has built a successful business around an Instagram-able/Pinterest-able mobile coffee house. Her business is among the most unique in Detroit, creating a mobile coffee experience for her audience.

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Alleah often participates in public events, like Noel Night, Open Streets Detroit, and MoPop Detroit, and she has also found success by catering to private events, like weddings. This all makes for an interesting story, and Drifter Coffee has gotten some great traditional media exposure, as in this Hour Detroit article

Lisa Waud of Pot and Box also created a ton of buzz from not only having a mobile flower shop, but also by creating The Flower House Detroit. In the panel, she talked about the pros and cons of operating out of a truck that can have adverse effects on their inventory. For example, when it's 90 degrees outside, the flowers can wilt in less than 3 hours if they are in the truck

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As a business person conscious of profit and loss, she is considering the costs and benefits of continuing the flower truck operation. It's expensive to have insurance for a mobile business and it takes a lot of energy and staffing costs to operate successfully. 

Build Institute's Open City Detroit event, held at the Atwater Brewery, 237 Joseph Campau Ave, Detroit, MI.

Build Institute's Open City Detroit event, held at the Atwater Brewery, 237 Joseph Campau Ave, Detroit, MI.

This was an important point in the conversation! Is a pop-up business/mobile business the end goal or a means to an end? Sometimes, a mobile or pop-up business can lead to a permanent brick-and-mortar establishment. On the other hand, some entrepreneurs prefer the mobile/pop-up business model as it can greatly reduce overhead costs. 

For me, having a mobile offering in the first few months of our operation of Plum Health allowed us to operate with a low overhead while building momentum. The goal was to engage enough customers to justify leasing out an office space. Once we had enough momentum, we were able to lease out our office and build from there. 

At Plum Health, we still offer house calls to our members, but now there is an added cost to these house calls, whereas house calls were standard in the first 2 months of operation. 

All in all, this was a great panel, and I learned a great deal from my fellow panelists and from the moderator, Sarah Donnelly. To the folks at Build Institute, thanks for the invite! And I'm looking forward to the next season of Open City!

- Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health DPC

The Radically Accessible Doctor in Detroit

This week, we took on a new patient on a Sunday evening. They had developed a pretty serious abscess in their armpit over the Thanksgiving weekend. On their drive home, they realized that they should probably have it looked at. By searching Google, they found our clinic!

Our new patient searched "Doctor Open Today", that's when they found Plum Health DPC!

Our new patient searched "Doctor Open Today", that's when they found Plum Health DPC!

Because it was a Sunday evening, they knew that it would be difficult to find an available doctor in Detroit. They searched "Doctor Open Today" and fortunately found our Plum Health clinic. 

I believe that health care should be affordable and accessible. Because of that belief, I am radically accessible for the patients in my care. 

So, that patient called around 2:30 pm on Sunday, and I was able to see them at 4:20 pm. We drained the abscess and started the appropriate antibiotic, dispensed from our in-clinic/on-site pharmacy. They had a follow up appointment during regular business hours on Tuesday, and was feeling much better!

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

- Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health DPC

Paul Thomas MD on Small Talk with Mark S. Lee

This weekend I was featured on Small Talk with Mark S. Lee. The radio broadcast airs on CBS Radio in Detroit! I was last on Small Talk in March 2017, and since that time, Plum Health DPC has grown in size and I've been asked to participate in some speaking and community events. 

In this episode of Small Talk with Mark S Lee, we talk about the TEDxDetroit event that was held on November 9th 2017. We highlight a few of the key points that I spoke about during that event. Foremost, I believe that health care should be affordable and accessible for everyone. Second, we talk about how doctors can be overloaded by their patients' concerns, and those concerns can slip through their fingers, like grains of sand. 

We also give an overview of Direct Primary Care and how you can find a Direct Primary Care doctor near you by using the DPC Mapper online

Mark asks what's wrong with our current system? And I respond by saying that the prices in the health care ecosystem are inflated, which makes health care unaffordable for many people. 

To illustrate, I make an analogy about Health Insurance vs. Auto Insurance. If we used our Auto Insurance policies to pay for tire rotations, oil changes or gasoline, those prices would be significantly inflated. However, that's exactly what we do with our Health Insurance policies. 

It's always enjoyable being on Small Talk with Mark S. Lee, and this time was a unique experience as the Honorable Former Mayor Dave Bing was interviewed just prior to my time slot! Not only is Dave Bing a former mayor, but he's also in the NBA Hall of Fame. He continues to be an example of great leadership as he continues his work with the Bing Youth Institute, so it was an honor to be a part of the show with him.

Thanks for reading and thanks for watching!

Sincerely,

Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health DPC

Paul Thomas MD at TEDxDetroit

This week I was invited to speak at TEDxDetroit! It was held on Thursday evening at the Charles H. Wright Museum for African American History and it was an amazing event. For those of you who don't know, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design. 

From their website, TED is a nonpartisan nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks. TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 110 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.

TEDxDetroit is one of those independently-organized events that brought together thought leaders in Detroit and Southeast Michigan. The topic: ideas worth spreading. 

It was an honor to be selected and an honor to share the stage with innovators like Kimberly Dowdell of Century Partners, Jon Rimanelli of AirSpaceX, and Marlin Williams of SistersCode

About Being Selected

I attended last year's TEDxDetroit event at the Fox Theater and I signed up for their mailing list, followed them on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin. The 2016 event was inspiring and I knew that I'd want to take part in future events. When the call for presentation proposals came out through their email and social media channels, I jumped at the chance to sign up!

I believe that health care should be affordable and accessible for everyone, and I believe that idea is worth spreading. About 2 weeks after applying, I heard back! I was floored that I had been selected as a presenter for the 2017 event!

The Preparation

I started to prepare almost as soon as I found out that I had been selected. I had been wanting to read the book Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo for a while, and this was the impetus to do it! It took me about 4 days, but I went through the book once, and then re-read the first half before the event. 

There are basically 9 key points to giving an excellent TED talk, according to the author Carmine Gallo. Three that resonated with me are as follows: share your passion, tell a story, and lighten up! 

As you may know, I am passionate about Detroit, health care and family medicine and I needed to tap into that passion to deliver an excellent TED talk. I also had to find a way to weave the facts and figures that are pertinent to primary care medicine into a story about primary care medicine. Finally, I had to keep it light! I injected some humor about my childhood and my desires to become a doctor as I grew up!

It took me about 5 days to work up the chutzpah to write the first draft, 2 days to write it, and then 1 day to craft the accompanying power point presentation. 

After all that was done, I gave the presentation to a receptive audience online. I recorded myself giving the presentation with accompanying slides and then uploaded that presentation to a community of 1,000 Direct Primary Care doctors on Facebook.

They liked it. It was obvious that my passion was coming across strongly, and I had a clear thesis: Health care should be affordable and accessible for everyone.

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However, the story telling element was not as strong as it could have been and it was almost depressing! One of my colleagues told me that I should tell a few more jokes and another told me to strengthen the story. 

So, for the talk, I inserted a joke about how I wanted to be a ninja turtle growing up. The joke was well captured by Twitter user @_AlexanderJohn:

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I also told some personal stories about my family and my grandfather and his experiences in the health care ecosystem. This gave my presentation an emotional component and allowed the audience to identify and empathize with the story that I was telling. It also allowed me to weave in some facts without overloading everyone with stats and data.

In short, the night before the TEDxDetroit presentation, I completely re-wrote my original draft. This was on Wednesday night - the presentation was on Thursday! I took a few hours to re-work my slide show to sync up with the new version.

I spent all day Thursday memorizing my presentation. By forcing myself to memorize the presentation, I forced myself to raise my game as a public speaker. You see, I've never given a presentation from total memory before. I've spoken during lectures from the heart and delivered content from memory that synced up with certain slides and I've given hour-long presentations like this.

But, having only 8 minutes, I didn't have any time to meander to get to the points I wanted to get to. My timing and pacing had to be perfect! Therefore, the presentation needed to be memorized.

The night of the event

The night of the event was nerve wracking! Around 3 pm, I gave my presentation to an empty house, and I totally bombed. I just didn't have the presentation memorized well enough. It was literally just the sound guy and a handful of other presenters, and I choked. 

So, from that dry run at 3 pm until showtime at 6 pm I rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed.

At showtime, I tried not to look at the packed house before I got on stage. It was a crazy experience looking up after taking the stage at a full house, everyone leaning forward in their chairs, quiet enough to hear a pin drop, waiting in anticipation for my words. 

That's when I said "Hello, my name is Paul Thomas, and I'm a family medicine doctor," and the momentum from that first line carried me through the rest of the talk. I knew my speech really well, probably not as well as I would have liked to, but well enough to say what I needed to say. 

I'm excited for the TED team to release the presentation on their website, and I'll keep you posted when they upload it - until then!

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health DPC

PS: stay tuned for the video from TED.com, follow me us on Twitter for the release! Button below:

Healthy Aging in Detroit

Let me tell you about one of my favorite things: educating people in the community about how they can be healthier. 

Today I was invited to the Earnest T Ford Recreation Center at 10 Pitkin Street in Highland Park to speak with a group of older men. They had questions and concerns about their health and their health care, and it was a pleasure speaking with them.

This group of senior citizens wanted to know how they could better their lives, and they peppered me with as many questions as they could think of, and I loved it. I love sharing my knowledge as a practicing family medicine doc with the people in my community. 

I especially enjoyed seeing the 'aha!' moments when things started to click with those men in my audience. We talked about high blood pressure, diabetes, erectile function and dysfunction, the aging brain, exercise, osteoporosis and bone health, and the connections between these conditions. Below are some pictures from the event!

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,

- Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health in Detroit, MI

Health Fair with the Wayne State Physicians Assistants

Over the past 6 months I've been hosting and teaching Physician Assistant students from Wayne State University at the Plum Health office. I've also had a few residents rotate through and a few medical students visit the clinic, some from Wayne State and some from University of Michigan. 

As Plum Health is the only Direct Primary Care practice in Detroit and Wayne County, and only one of less than ten in the State of Michigan, I find that we attract PA students, medical students, residents, doctors and allied health professionals who are thinking differently about health care and it's delivery, especially in the context of health equity and health disparities. 

Anyways, I've loved having these students rotate through Plum Health! They bring a unique perspective, build genuine relationships with our members, and create an atmosphere of teaching and learning in the practice. This last point is important because I practice evidence-based medicine, and having a student helps to keep me up-to-date on the latest recommendations for evidence-based practice. 

So last weekend, we were able to host a health fair at the Plum Health office. "We" being myself and the Physician Assistant students at Wayne State. Their energy was boundless and they put a great deal of time and effort in creating fun health-focused stations that taught participants about being healthier.

All in all, it was a successful day! We reached out to new people in the community, and gave away free medical care. We caught a case of diabetes that was unknown prior to the fair and helped folks gauge their blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels (HDL, LDL, Total Cholesterol and Lipid Panel). 

Below are photos from the event! Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

- Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health DPC in Detroit, Michigan

Don't Further Entrench an Already Broken System

Dear Congressional Representatives, Leaders in the AAFP, and all of those concerned with improving the health of Americans,

I’ve recently become aware of a part of the Alexander-Murray health reform bill that is concerning for the Direct Primary Care (DPC) movement, my practice and the patients that I care for in Southwest Detroit.

The bill includes a provision that mandates all High Deductible Health Plans cover an allotted primary care benefit. As written currently, the Alexander-Murray bill will cover “3 office visits per year” but many organizations, including the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), are pushing to expand that.

While this may sound like a nice perk for patients, it only further traps patients and their primary care doctors in a broken system that undervalues primary care. It reinforces the notion that government and insurance companies must micromanage our dollars and decisions.

Forcing patients to pre-pay for a “primary care benefit” with no out-of-pocket costs will have a few detrimental effects. First, it will almost certainly increase the up-front costs of already skyrocketing health insurance plans. It will also dissuade patients from taking a proactive approach to managing their own health and health care, instead pushing them to be managed by an insurance plan or government programs. Finally, this pre-paid primary care benefit will discourage people from joining Direct Primary Care Practices, a promising practice model that is already achieving the quadruple aim: improving population health, increasing patient satisfaction, reducing per-capita health care spending, and improving physician and staff satisfaction while practicing medicine.

Furthermore, the Alexander-Murray bill fails to address the Health Savings Account (HSA) issue with regards to Direct Primary Care membership fees, something that my DPC doctor colleagues and I have been advocating for over the last few years.

My recommendation at this time would be to advocate for the Primary Care Enhancement Act (SB 1358), which would address the above HSA issue and not further entrench an already broken primary care delivery model.

In closing, Direct Primary Care is an innovative health care delivery model that has promise for achieving the quadruple aim on a nationwide basis. There are nearly 1,000 primary care doctors already practicing or on the cusp of engaging in this model. This is an opportunity to help us grow this DPC movement, to help us better serve our patients in this innovative way, and to potentially heal a broken primary care system in America. Help us reach our goal.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

- Dr. Paul Thomas, MD with Plum Health DPC in Detroit, Michigan

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Direct Primary Care Conference 2017

Today I'm blogging from Orlando! The 2017 Direct Primary Care Nuts and Bolts 2.0 conference is ongoing! There are some heavy hitters in the room, and it's great to meet up with colleagues and learn best practices. Moreover, this is a call to action - it's inspiring being surrounded by 250 of the leaders in the Direct Primary Care movement!

These doctors have left a secure paycheck, given up on their employed gigs and pursued their dream of delivering the best care possible for their patients. I'm always inspired by their courage in the face of uncertainty and their dedication to lifting up the profession of primary care. 

One of the most inspiring talks of this conference was given by Dr. Doug Farrago. He received a standing ovation after sharing his truth about why he's a Direct Primary Care doctor. He detailed his trajectory from being a battered employed doctor, threatened with termination if he questioned his marching orders, to leaving the system and practicing in a DPC model with fulfillment. 

A big thanks to Dr. Lee Gross and the Docs 4 Patient Care team who have organized this conference. I'm looking forward to 'next time'!

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health in Detroit, Michigan

Family Doctor at the Open Streets Detroit Event

Last week I had the opportunity to be on the street level, talking with folks about health care at the Open Streets Detroit event! For those of you who don't know, Open Streets is a global movement. Cities across the country and across the world shut down their streets to cars and buses, and open them up to walkers, joggers, bikers, rollerbladers and community partners. 

This year, I again participated as the "Ask the Doctor!" community partner. Last year I participated as well, but I wanted to make my area more interactive this year. So, I brought out a hockey net, a few sticks and I had people take a few shots on me. I've never been a great goalie, but it was a fun way to interact with folks in Corktown. 

Our station was in front of the Michigan Central Station and I spoke with hundreds of people over the course of the day. There were thousands of participants, and the streets were filled with energy and vibrancy! I'm really looking forward to the 'next time,' but until then, enjoy some pictures of Open Streets Detroit 2017!

Digital Marketing for my Direct Primary Care Doctor Colleagues

Starting a Direct Primary Care practice is a tall task, by any measure. Doctors emerge from residency with little to no business training. Starting a DPC practice is starting a business, and for many doctors, this is their first attempt at something like this. The journey from 'idea' to 'successful practice' is fraught with pitfalls and difficulties. 

Knowing how hard it is to start a business and how hard it is to start a DPC practice, I wrote a blog post for my colleagues. It is my sincere hope that they are able to grow while minimizing mistakes, errors, and difficulties. One area where I see that doctors could make significant improvements is their digital marketing. 

Specifically, DPC docs need to know how to build a sales funnel for their services. You see, when a doctor is employed by a large health system, her name is on the back of the insurance card for thousands of patients. That same doctor, when she breaks free from the insurance-based system, has to find her own patients. Where will these patients come from? 

Direct Primary Care (DPC) doctors must leverage social media, email marketing, networking events, etc... in order to grow their practices successfully. This piece that I wrote on the Hint Health blog will facilitate this growth, and it focuses on building a sales funnel for your practice.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health 

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Mentoring Students at Wayne State University School of Medicine

Part of my mission, part of the "why" behind what I do, is to educate medical students and inspire them to choose a career in primary care specialties. Primary care doctors have the greatest impact on their communities, have the most tools at their disposal, and are most able to bend the cost curve in the health care ecosystem.

As a part of that mission, I spend a good amount of time interacting with medical students at Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSUSOM). This week, I took part in two different events at WSUSOM. The first was a mentoring session for first year students and the second was a mock interview session for the fourth year students. 

For the first year students, it's an opportunity to get to know each other, learn from each other, and to be a resource. For the fourth year students, it's an opportunity to help them polish their interviewing skills as they prepare for the next step in their careers - residency! 

This next generation of doctors will face significant changes and challenges in the health care system - from greater automation, to precision medicine, to even Artificial Intelligence. I hope that I can be a part of the foundation along with their formal education at WSUSOM that sets them on the right path to success in medicine. 

Thanks for reading, and have a beautiful day,

- Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health DPC

Drew and Mike on Health Care

I was listening to the Drew and Mike Podcast from September 26th, and Drew and his Crew were talking about how health insurance costs are outrageous! Early in the episode (time 1:16), one of the co-hosts admonished Drew Lane, "you can barely afford insurance for yourself!" This set off a conversation about the cost of health insurance, the little coverage that it affords and Drew Lane's displeasure with the overall system. 

Drew's first reaction (minute 1:28), "I don't know how people my age, in my position," not yet covered by Medicare, "and self-employed... ...that's a big chunk of money." He goes on to say that his insurance costs roughly $18,000 - 19,000/year and if you were to make $50,000/year, it would cost roughly 30% of your gross income. 

Because of this extremely high cost, Drew and his co-hosts speculate that some folks just choose to "roll the dice," i.e. go without insurance and hope for the best. They do mention that those folks earning less may be eligible for subsidies or tax breaks from the Federal Government. But, still - a huge chunk of our income is going directly to health insurance and health insurance companies. Even worse, the quality and service levels can be low because care is dictated by third party payers like insurance companies or the government. 

Because Drew's dog recently had eye surgery, Drew was talking about how veterinarians discuss charges before providing care, and how that concept should be applied to the human medical field. "Wouldn't that be something?" Drew asks rhetorically. 

Well, it doesn't have to be a rhetorical question. It doesn't have to be a pipe dream. I'm here to tell you that Direct Primary Care doctors make their prices clear and transparent, and it may revolutionize primary care!

Here's how it works: Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a membership model for health care. Prices vary between different DPC practices, but our prices at Plum Health are $10/month for kids, $49/month for young adults 18 - 40, $69/month for adults 40 - 65, and $89/month for older adults 65 and up. 

With that membership, patients or members can come in and see the doctor any time! They can also call, text or email the doctor anytime. 

Further, patients or members can have access to wholesale medications, at-cost labs, and at-cost imaging services. So far we've saved our members tens of thousands of dollars on these ancillary services. 

I shot a video explaining these concepts in more detail, here:

Thanks so much for reading and watching. I hope that I've opened your eyes to the possibility of better health care services with a transparent pricing structure.  Finally, have a wonderful day!

- Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health in Detroit, MI

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Motivation to Quit Smoking

We are all on a journey, and at Plum Health we like to guide people to better lifestyle choices. For example, if you're trying to quit smoking, we can help you by reminding you of your commitment. 

How do we do this? It's really simple, actually. We just send you a text message! Here's a real life example, sent to one of our members last week: 

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These are real text messages, and this is a real patient. Their name has been removed for patient privacy sake, but you get the idea. When you're a part of Plum Health, you are someone who I think about and that I care about and that I want to help. Sincerely, whenever I think about this person, I send them a text and ask - "how's it going?"

And, there is a great deal of evidence to support these types of interventions. There is a systemic review/meta analysis on Text Messaging-Based Interventions for Smoking Cessation in the Journal of Medical Internet Research that came to this conclusion: "The current meta-analytic review provides unequivocal support for the efficacy of text messaging interventions for smoking abstinence."

That's why I send messages like this:

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Further, texting patients about their health can have different applications. For example, a text message to a patient regarding their exercise patterns or medication adherence can help them to achieve their goals.

So, what's your goal? How do you want to become healthier? Can I help you get there?

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health 

Limitless or My Thoughts on Optimizing Productivity

This week I watched the movie "Limitless" starring Bradley Cooper. The film follows a struggling writer who can't seem to get anything done. Even though he has a book deal, he hasn't written a page, not even a word. He finds himself lingering at the bar, talking about what he might do rather than just doing it. 

Then, Bradley Cooper's character meets an old acquaintance who introduces him to a medication - NZT - that improves his brain's capacity to access information, concentrate and focus. Within 4 days, he finishes his book and within a month, he is the lead consultant on the largest corporate merger in American history. 

I found it interesting that the very first thing Bradley Cooper's character does when taking this mental capacity-enhancing medication is to clean his entire apartment. He literally throws away all of the things he doesn't need, washes his dishes, organizes his book shelf, tweaks the layout of his apartment, and sets up a desk that is most conducive to being productive. 

Hollywood hyperbole aside, I think this movie touches on some really important take-aways. First, how do you organize your life? What does your physical space look like? Are you able to be productive in that space? What about your schedule? Are you creating space in your schedule so that you can capitalize on your peak brain capacity, your peak productivity?

For me, I am most effective when I exercise first thing in the morning and then schedule myself 2 - 3 hours of un-interrupted work. I can really zero-in on the one or two most difficult tasks for the day. This is the time that I'm "in the zone" or experiencing a "flow state" - I am engrossed in my work and able to interact with complex thoughts and decisions. 

The time of day and how you mentally prepare for your peak productivity may be different for you. For example, you may be more productive in the night-time hours, after everyone else in your family has gone to bed. The point is this: it is incredibly important to think critically about how you structure your day and your life for optimal productivity, and even happiness. 

I believe that this has important applications for medical conditions, namely depression, anxiety and ADHD. Let's tackle ADHD, for example. With ADHD, the two mainstays of treatment are medications and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). And, in CBT, the focus is on time management, organization, and making short- and long-term plans. 

Here's why CBT is relevant for patients with ADHD, taken from CHADD, the national resource on ADHD: "CBT is relevant for adults with ADHD in two ways. First, in recent years, CBT programs have been developed specifically for adults with ADHD. Some of these programs aim to help adults overcome their difficulties in everyday executive functions that are needed to effectively manage time, organize and plan in the short term and the long term. Other programs focus on emotional self-regulation, impulse control and stress management".

As for Depression, if you are dealing with depression, and you are not structuring your day to include exercise, you may be missing out on a powerful form of treatment. Exercise can be a powerful antidepressant. However, the evidence is limited at this time. According to an article in the American College of Sports Medicine's Health and Fitness Journal, "Only two studies, both from researchers at Duke University, compared the effectiveness of exercise with pharmacotherapy. No differences between exercise and antidepressant medication were noted". 

Final takeaways, you have the power to improve your mood and your productivity by organizing your life. Think critically about how you structure your schedule, physical space, and mental space, and create your schedule around your peak productivity.

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health in Detroit, MI

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Detroit Homecoming: Seeing Two Sides

This past week, I attended two different events as a part of the Detroit Homecoming series. One was an official event with the well-to-do expats, and the other was an unofficial gathering of neighbors where a discussion was held about the foreclosure crisis. 

The first event was Wednesday, September 13th at the corner of Dalzelle and 14th. There was a buzz in the air that was palpable. For the first time in decades, the Michigan Central Station was exuding signs of life, as the facade was being lit up with scrolling words. Phrases like "DETROIT HOMECOMING", "REINVEST", and "REIMAGINE" scrolled across the stations front face, broadcasting a message of hope to the community and region.

Check out this video from Nadir Ali, a local videographer, from the event that evening. 

The invited guests from out of town streamed in, ready to hear from Mayor Duggan, Lilly Tomlin, etc... Across the street, on the corner of 14th and Dalzelle, neighbors gathered to discuss the foreclosure crisis. The event was orchestrated by Jerry Paffendorf of Loveland Technologies, and people shared personal stories as well as strategies to combat foreclosures in Detroit and beyond.

And, in the streets of Roosevelt Park, protestors shouted and chanted, making their voices heard about their discontent and growing concerns over foreclosures, blight, poverty, and now gentrification.

It was an interesting juxtaposition, to say the least - the wealthiest sons and daughters of Detroit returning home and being confronted by those left behind by an increasingly globalized economy, while the group at the corner of Dalzelle and 14th looked on and talked about foreclosures, problems and solutions.

The second event that I attended was an official Detroit Homecoming event held at "The Factory at Corktown," a new development owned by Bobby Buhl that bills itself as "a premier venue in the heart of Detroit's Corktown neighborhood."

In this setting, I was able to talk to some of the expats about health and health care in the City of Detroit. And the people I spoke to had genuine interest in the community and how to make Detroit a better place for all. 

This seems like a no-brainer, but all of the people mentioned in this post - the wealthy expats, the neighbors talking about foreclosures, and the protestors in Roosevelt Park - are invested in Detroit and the future of this place, this City, and this Region. 

I know that solutions to our problems will not be easy, but I believe that we can create a better future for Detroit and for our region if we continue to work together and engage in this type of discourse. I know that the conversations will be difficult, but we will be worse off if they are not held at all. 

At the crux of the issue is this: how do we advance the interests of all Detroiters? How can we welcome outside investment and outside interest and the development that it may bring without displacing anyone or leaving anyone behind? How can we build upon what we already have without replacing what already exists?

I know these are deep thoughts, but I think these are questions worth asking.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day,

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health

A Golden Apple in My Office

This week, I was taking care of a family of 6 in my office! There was a lot of joyful movement and one of the toddlers grabbed an item from its resting place- it's an Apple, a Golden Apple, that I keep on my shelf and it's a reminder of my mission, vision, and values. 

When I was in medical school at Wayne State University, I was awarded with the Golden Apple Student Award for having an understanding of the Art of Medicine as displayed by the care and understanding of patients. It was a tremendous honor, and it's something that I carry with me, as well as something that I want to give to my patients and reflect in my practice.

Often, my patients will ask me about the best course of action going forward, and sometimes the answer isn't always clear. You see, there's the science of medicine, the reproducible, empiric evidence with its best practices and treatment recommendations. These guidelines are important to know and important to follow in most cases. But, on the other side, is the Art of Medicine, and because every one is unique, an individual, with unique medical concerns, treatment choices aren't always clearly defined. 

When difficult choices need to be made, I often ask my patients which course of action they'd like to pursue. This may be a unique aspect to my practice, but I know that it's important to engage in shared decision-making with the people that I care for. When decisions are made together, we can be on the same page about treatment, compliance to the plan is higher, and people feel like they have more control over the condition and situation. 

Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful day,

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health

 

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Volunteer Doctor at Tour de Troit 2017

One of my favorite events in Detroit is the Tour de Troit, a friendly 25 mile bike ride through Detroit and some of its beautiful neighborhoods. For the last 5 years, I've been participating as a volunteer medic, starting during my medical school training and continuing through residency, and now as a doctor. 

I love the ride because I get to see so many people who I know! There are so many people and businesses that support this ride and who make it a really special event. From the Great Lakes Coffee that's served with food from the Detroit Institute of Bagels, to the lunch after the ride from local restaurants, to all of the people from the community who come out and either volunteer or ride. It all adds up to a great time. 

Biking is also a super healthy way to see the city, and during the ride we have police barricades and police escorts, so it makes for a very safe environment for everyone who participates. A big thank you to the Detroit Police Department for keeping everyone safe again this year!

When I talk about health, I'm not only talking about physiological health, but also social health - I believe that events that bring together people from different communities and backgrounds can serve to strengthen our region and make us better. That's why I love Tour de Troit, because it is this space where people from across Metro Detroit come together. For future events in this same vein, check out Slow Roll or Open Streets Detroit

It's always a great ride, but it comes with a few injuries every year. This year the head count was about 7,000 riders and we had a handful of accidents and injuries to attend to throughout the day. There were about 20 of us medical volunteers, mostly medical students, and we delivered basic first aid for riders after minor injuries. For more major events, Emergency Medical Services were used. 

So, with fall and cooler weather fast approaching, make it a point to get out today, tomorrow, and the next day on a bike ride or a walk or a run - this is a great time to be active and healthy, and your body, mind, and spirit will thank you for the effort. 

Thanks for reading, and have a great day!

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health

Why It's Important to Have a Family Medicine Doctor in Detroit

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Keith White of the Cancer Awareness Resource Network. We talked over the phone about his organization, the work we're doing with Plum Health, and the potential that we have to serve folks with cancer in Detroit and beyond. 

Keith has had an amazing and inspiring journey. To read about him, check out what he wrote on his "about us"page. One thing Keith realized, though, is that even if folks have great health insurance, they may still have really high co-pays for doctor's visits and medications. He reached out to see what Plum Health could offer those with cancer and those in remission in his network. 

Simply put, we can offer the best primary care experience in Detroit. What that means is that you have a Family Medicine Doctor or a Primary Care Doctor who is truly your advocate. I take my role seriously, and I will advocate for your health and wellbeing, your family and your finances while you confront cancer. How do we do this? 

First, I focus on you and take a wholistic approach to your care. I have more time to spend with you, to get to know you and understand where you're coming from, what you're dealing with, and where you want to go with your life and your health. As your family doc, I will make sure that you're taking the right medications, that you are getting the right screening tests, and keeping up with treatment.

Second, I take care of folks in the context of their families and their communities. If there are emotional or familial stressors, we can talk about those and look for solutions together.

Third, I watch out for the financial wellbeing of my patients. This means that I make my prices clear and understandable, I don't charge co-pays for visits, and I give my members medications at wholesale prices. 

Cancer and its treatment are hard enough, so when facing these difficulties, you want a primary care doctor who knows you well and who can advocate on your behalf. 

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,

Dr. Paul Thomas with Plum Health

The current look of our Plum Health Direct Primary Care office in Detroit, Michigan

The current look of our Plum Health Direct Primary Care office in Detroit, Michigan

Starting a Direct Primary Care Practice in Detroit: What Inspired Me

I initially discovered direct primary care while on a road trip in November 2012. I was driving back to Detroit from a residency position interview at the University of Minnesota. I believe it was a libertarian-minded podcast featuring an interview with Dr. Josh Umbehr, discussing his startup in Wichita, Kansas, called Atlas MD. 

It was refreshing to hear a Family Medicine doctor speaking so passionately about saving people money, delivering better care, and practicing in a unique way. The message resonated with me, but at that time I was pursuing a faculty position at a residency program because I enjoyed teaching so much. Suffice it to say that I filed this “Direct Primary Care” concept in the back of my mind.

Between my second and third years of residency, I went to the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) annual meeting in Traverse City. It was July 2015. There I met Dr. Clint Flanagan of Nextera Healthcare in Denver, Colorado. He spoke unequivocally about the value of being a primary care doctor and the tremendous value that we provide for our patients. His passion for the profession also came through in a way that I hadn’t experienced before.

These two leaders in the field served as a contrast to the typically burnt out and grumbling physician that I had met thus far in training. Even the best doctors grumbled about paperwork, prior authorizations, late patients, packed schedules, and all of the other difficult parts of being a primary care doctor.

At that point, I knew that I would pursue an alternative practice model. It only made sense – less-than-fulfilled physicians practicing in a less-than-ideal system surrounded me and I knew that life could be better on the other side. Additionally, I always had this inner drive to deliver medicine in a more equitable and just system. Direct primary care seemed to align with my values as an individual and as a doctor, but I needed to dive deeper.

So, as an elective rotation, I drove out to Wichita and Denver, and spent a week learning from both Drs. Umbehr and Flanagan. I kicked the tires, took copious notes, and tried to bring the best of their practices to my community in Detroit, Wayne County, and Southeast Michigan.

Now it's September 2017 - almost 5 years after I had initially heard of "Direct Primary Care". Now, I'm living DPC every day, taking care of people of all ages and stages in my clinic in Southwest Detroit. I'm even caring for people while on vacation - I helped about 10 of my patients while I was traveling abroad over the last week. 

I am able to do this - to be the doctor that I was meant to be - because I am a Direct Primary Care doctor. This post is about inspiration, and what inspired me, and what continues to inspire me.

I am inspired by the fact that I can help people with real health care needs either in my office or over the phone, or via video chat or email. I am inspired by the fact that I am able to serve people who haven't seen a doctor in years, because we've lowered the cost barriers and therefore have made our service more accessible. I'm inspired by the fact that we can do so much good in such a small space.

I'm also inspired by the potential for Plum Health to grow, and to serve more people in our immediate community and across the region. I'm inspired by the happy patients that I get to work with everyday.

I've had great mentors along the way, specifically from the pioneers in the Direct Primary Care world, and I'm grateful for their help in getting me to a successful and sustainable DPC practice. 

Thanks for reading this reflection, and have a wonderful day,

-Dr. Paul with Plum Health DPC

Dr. Paul Thomas of Plum Health DPC, in the Plum Health office!

Dr. Paul Thomas of Plum Health DPC, in the Plum Health office!

Wayne State White Coat Ceremony Speech

The White Coat Ceremony, a New Tradition

The annual White Coat Ceremony is a relatively new tradition at medical schools across the country. In order to convey the virtues of the profession - compassion, altruism, duty, honor, respect, and responsibility - Dr. Arnold P. Gold created the event.

The first White Coat Ceremony was held at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York in 1993. Dr. Gold believed that students should declare their commitment to the profession and the virtues therein at the beginning of their medical school journey, rather than at the end.

Now, 97% of medical schools have a White Coat Ceremony. The Ceremony gives a clear set of guidelines for these doctors-in-training to follow, and students are able to accept the obligations of the profession and commit to upholding the high standards that come with the title of "doctor". 

The Declaration of Commitment

I solemnly pledge myself to consecrate my life to the service of humanity;

I will give to my teachers the respect and gratitude which is their due;

I will develop my skills with conscience and dignity;

The health of my patients and myself will be my first considerations; 

I will respect those things that are confided in me;

I will maintain by all the means in my power the honour and the noble traditions of the medical profession;

My colleagues will be my comrades;

I will not permit considerations of religion, nationality, race, party politics, sexual orientation, or social standings to intervene between my duty, my peers, and my patients;

I will maintain the utmost respect for human life and I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to law;

I make these promises solemnly, freely and upon my honour. 

My Speech

First of all, it was a tremendous honor to be selected as the Keynote Speaker for the Wayne State University School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony for the Class of 2021. When I received the phone call to be the speaker, I was nearly speechless and unsure of my ability to live up to the expectations that come with this role. I needed 24 hours to think on the offer. 

After talking it over with my wife, I decided that this was something that I could do, and that I had a lot to say about the opportunity before these students and the medical profession in general.

When I was getting ready for medical school, I read several books. I was to be the first doctor in my family and I had a limited perspective on the medical field, i.e. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. 

One of the authors that stuck with me was Atul Gawande, a surgeon and writer out of Boston. He wrote about the appealing aspects of a career in Medicine: autonomy, complexity, and a direct relationship between effort and reward. 

However, something was missing. For me, that something is happiness. You see, doctors struggle with professional burnout, substance abuse, and suicide. We can speculate about why, but I think it's some combination of consistent perfection, frustrations with the monolithic systems within health care, and a heavy workload. I didn't want to get into the darker side of these concerns during the White Coat Ceremony, but they definitely influenced my speech. 

Because of these concerns and these problems in the medical profession, I believe that we need to focus on creating a culture of happiness in the medical field. How can we train doctors to be happy? How can we create hospital systems, clinics, and insurance policies that foster physician wellness and happiness? 

I don't know if there are great answers to these questions, but it's something that I have thought about deeply. For me, creating a happy practice involved creating a membership model for health care via Plum Health. That works for me, but during my speech, I encouraged these medical students to explore the profession fully and to find their own means of happiness within it. 

I wish the very best to the WSU SOM Class of 2021. I know that these students will be a part of a generation of doctors that revolutionizes the way we deliver high-quality, compassionate health care. Without further ado, my speech: 

Thanks for reading and for watching, and have a wonderful day,

- Paul Thomas, MD | Doctor with Plum Health in Detroit, Michigan

Wayne State University School of Medicine published an official write-up about the event on their webpage, here