By Lisa McCormack
Dr. David Bisbee longs to return to a time when physicians knew their patients by name, offered unhurried office visits and made house calls.
He will bring that type of care back to Lamoille County next month when he opens Stowe Personalized Medical Care. The practice opens Oct. 1 at 53 Old Farm Lane.
Bisbee is currently a family physician at Stowe Family Practice, which he founded in 1986. He was medical director of the practice from 2008 to 2010.
Changes to the U.S. health insurance system over the past two decades have forced physicians to care for larger numbers of patients and to spend less time with them during office visits, he said.
Stowe Family Practice now cares for more than 2,000 patients.
“The way the insurance system is set up, it’s like being on a treadmill,” Bisbee said. “I’d like to slow down and spend more time with patients, talking to them about how to stay healthy rather than only seeing them when they have a cold.”
He wants to return to a more personalized approach to care.
“It’s an old-fashioned notion, really,” Bisbee said. “Like it used to be in the old days when people could see their doctors when they needed to.”
In his new practice, Bisbee will schedule appointments to allow for up to 90 minutes for an annual physical. Shorter same-day appointments will be available for acute problems such as a rash or ear infection.
“My goal is that patients will never be told there are no appointments available and they have to go to the ER,” Bisbee said. “I feel like we’re failing when we do that.”
He’ll also make house calls for patients who are too elderly or sick to travel.
Additionally, he’ll meet patients at the emergency room, and he’ll make daily rounds to care for patients who are hospitalized.
His office will perform electrocardiograms, blood draws, basic lab work, and pulmonary function tests. Patient records will be stored electronically.
“I’ll be able to take my computer home or on house calls and have access to patients’ records,” Bisbee said.
Patients will have Bisbee’s cell-phone number and he’ll be on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He plans to take two weeks off each year, during which Dr. Patrick Keith of Copley Hospital will cover for him.
Bisbee will limit his practice to 400 patients to ensure each one receives personalized care.
Patients will pay an annual membership fee to be part of the practice. Fees range from $1,200 for an individual patient to $2,700 for a couple, with discounts for part-time residents. Children up to age 26 can be added to their parents’ membership free of charge.
In addition to the annual fee, Bisbee will charge for office visits and other services he provides. His new practice will accept most health insurance plans along with Medicare and Medicaid.
Bisbee is unsure of how he’ll be affected when Vermont rolls out its single-payer health care system. He anticipates that he’ll be able to continue to submit bills for his patients as he currently does for private insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid.
Bisbee is also medical director for the Manor in Morrisville and will continue to care for its residents.
Rural family doctor
“I’ve always wanted to be a family doctor in a rural town,” Bisbee said.
Bisbee, 59, grew up in Minnesota. His father was a seventh-generation Vermonter from Waitsfield and he spent time there during school vacations.
An encounter with a country doctor named Dr. Quimby when he was in eighth grade set him on course to become a family physician.
“He had his office in his home in Waitsfield and diagnosed me at his kitchen table,” Bisbee said. “I liked the idea of being a generalist instead of just being a specialist of one area of the body.”
He imagined himself as an old-fashioned family doctor like Marcus Welby M.D. from the popular television show of the same name, or Doc from “Gunsmoke.”
After earning his medical degree at the University of Minnesota, Bisbee moved to Stowe where he founded Stowe Family Practice. At that time, he was the sole physician at the office; today there are five physicians, two nurse practitioners and a psychiatrist.
He left Stowe in 1999 to take a position as associate director of a family practice residency program in Iowa, and later became medical director of Capital Region Family Practice Center in Concord, N.H., while working as an associate clinical professor at the Dartmouth/New Hampshire Family Practice Residency Program.
He returned to Stowe in 2006.
Bisbee lives in Hyde Park with his wife, Tamara Bisbee, a psychiatrist. They have three grown daughters and two grandchildren.
In his spare time, Bisbee enjoys woodworking, stonework, landscaping, hiking and snowshoeing.
He is also an associate clinical professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine.