When is a waiting room not a waiting room? When it’s in a concierge medical practice, like the one offered by Riviera residents Thomas LaGrelius, MD and his partner, Nicole Lawrence, MD, at Skypark Preferred Family Care.

Preferred Family Care. Unlike traditional medical offices, concierge practices allow doctors to limit the size of their client base to a few hundred rather than several thousand patients. As a result, patients can make same-day appointments, spend more time with their doctor, and reach their physician by phone or text 24 hours a day year-round.

And as for the traditional waiting room with boring magazines and long waits? The non-waiting rooms at Skypark Preferred Family Care offer complimentary snacks and beverages and almost no time between checking in and seeing the doctor.

“Our patients joke that they don’t have time to peruse the magazines before we call them in,” said Dr. LaGrelius. “But it’s our personalized, one-on-one care they really rave about. We’re as concerned about our patients’ welfare as we would be with a close relative or friend.”

As part of that care, Drs LaGrelius and Lawrence have a strong focus on preventive medicine and long-term health and wellness. Patients are not limited to a 10- minute visit, so there is ample time for discussion, collaboration and a real focus on optimizing health. Patients are seen in whatever environment is best for them, whether in the office, a hospital or nursing home – even in their own home when appropriate.

“The fact that we’re available to our patients every day, all the time, means they don’t need to spend an uncomfortable night or weekend waiting for their doctor’s office to open,” said Dr. LaGrelius. ”We encourage our patients to contact us anytime, even after calling 911 in a medical emergency so  we can help until the paramedics arrive and then assist with coordinating emergency care thereafter.”

Dr. LaGrelius knew he wanted to be a physician at the age of 5, when his pediatrician convinced him that shots tickled and the red blood that sprang from a prick on his finger was the nicest color on earth. He has specialized in family medicine since 1977 and geriatric medicine since 1990.

For Dr. Lawrence, doing community service at a nursing home while in college piqued her interest in geriatrics. She is board-certified in both internal and geriatric medicine, and also specializes in women’s health and weight management.

“I love being able to spend time with my patients and their families, focusing not just on their health, but also who they are as people,” said Dr. Lawrence. “This kind of relationship allows me to practice medicine in the kind of personalized manner patients deserve.”

Both physicians find concierge medicine the best way to truly work for their patients, not an insurance company, a large healthcare organization or a corporation.

“Concierge practice is the only way to do ongoing care of geriatric patients in particular and of all patients for that matter at the level of quality and attention I want to provide,” said Dr. LaGrelius. “The insurance system is a failure at providing primary care coverage because primary care is not an ‘insurable event’ like two weeks in the ICU or a major back surgery. Primary care is an ongoing, inexpensive process that should be budgeted and paid for like food, clothing and shelter. It does not fit into the insurance model. Therefore, concierge medicine is the solution. With today’s medicine, the insurance company is the customer. With concierge the patient is the customer.”

Dr. LaGrelius and his wife, Patti, have lived in the Riviera since 1985 and raised three kids here.

“The Riviera is the best kept real estate secret in California,” he said. “I can be at the office or hospital in five minutes. I can see a necklace of lights from Redondo Beach to Malibu from my front window. I can walk to the beach, shopping and restaurants in minutes. It is far enough away from freeways to make it safe and almost rural. Furthermore, we are surrounded by fabulous neighbors we love. This is truly the best place to live on earth.”

Dr. Lawrence moved to the Riviera one year ago with her husband, Ryan, a rocket scientist with Millenium Space Systems in El Segundo.

“Our family loves to take walks around the winding neighborhood streets,” said Dr. Lawrence. “We enjoy being so close to the ocean and the shops and restaurants in the Riviera Village. It is the perfect place to raise our son.”

To learn more about Skypark Preferred Family Care, including their concierge prices and policies, you can reach them at 310-375-1393. They are located at 23451 Madison Street, Suite 140 in Torrance, and are on the web at www.skyparkpfc.com.

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