A PCP’s best pal – and possible outlet – Blue Sky MD helps patients lose weight fast, keep it off
Dr. David LaMond
HENDERSONVILLE, NC — Medical entrepreneur Dave LaMond, DO, has incorporated an innovative clinical model of care for obese and overweight patients that’s garnered such positive results that he’s expanding quickly while also retaining a hands-on personal touch that’s gained a loyal and appreciative clientele.
After seeing the frustration shared by many primary care physicians (PCPs), LaMond blended two business concepts – a traditional fee-for-service medical spa and a weight loss clinic – to establish Blue Sky MD in 2009.
Founded on the principle of providing comprehensive care, with systems in place to meet all of a patient’s needs, Blue Sky has a culture of customer service and patient-centric care that’s a cornerstone for the practice.
“My mantra is ‘take care of the patient and everything else will take care of itself,’” he said. “The practice was based on providing cutting-edge care, with the primary goal of true primary prevention, or prevention of disease before complications.”
The practice has evolved into what LaMond described an “age-management” practice, focusing on nutrition, hormone optimization and non-surgical aesthetic offerings.
“We’re focused on producing clinical data to provide payors with cost savings and to validate our protocols,” he said. “We’re developing simplified protocols to provide 'turn-key' solutions to other providers in an ancillary service model. In other words, we'll deliver the care for other providers. This solution will focus on weight control services.” Finding the right clinical care model and organizational structure proved the greatest challenge developing the business, said LaMond, who follows Medicare and National Institutes of Health (NIH) guidelines for the care of patients who need weight control services, and “metabolically” manage weight and bill under medical co-morbidities. “Without a proper, scalable solution in place, you’re destined to fail,” he admitted. “Also, I have an incredible team with a can-do attitude. They love this business and the culture. They’re adaptable and flexible and able to troubleshoot. The patient care piece is my passion, so that was easy! I love developing protocols. I’m constantly in the 'lab' refining and improving the program.”
The core curriculum of the program has remained relatively stable; LaMond continues adding tools to motivate patients while also measuring and screening for disease. An incentive for weight loss patients: they receive a $25 credit toward products and services for every 10 percent of weight lost, and also for every referral.
“Our process starts with an extensive intake, which takes 60 minutes,” explained LaMond. “We assume the role of clinical detective, with our objective to create an outline based on a series of clinical events. The underlying theme is often 'abnormal weight gain,' which was either a lifelong struggle or triggered by an event, either physiologic/medical or life change. We then use various tools to treat the underlying cause, often with a multi-pronged approach.”
LaMond’s goal is to measure metabolism.
“We compare our measured metabolism value with a calculated/predicted value,” he said. “The bottom line, if someone’s metabolism is off by 20 percent or more of what we predict it should be, the patient has underlying metabolic issues/metabolic syndrome. We work to correct these issues with diet and nutrition, exercise, nutraceuticals, medications and hormone replacement therapy.”
When done properly, hormone therapy is a game changer, said LaMond.
“This will become standard of care,” he said, “and already is in certain cases, such as male hormone replacement therapy.”
Low testosterone is a marker for metabolic syndrome, he noted.
“It's standard of care to screen for this post myocardial infarction (MI) and in primary care settings,” he said.
The aesthetic portion of the practice typically comes into play once a patient is feeling better, often within weeks to months of the start of the weight loss program, LaMond said.
“Our patients want to be beautiful inside and out,” he said. “We offer everything from natural skin care, custom compounded skin care, mineral make-up, peels, neurotoxins, fillers and laser/light-based technology for hair removal, wrinkles, skin laxity, and sun damage. We’re experts in this space … and we’re developing a natural skin care line.”
Staffing Blue Sky MD is an artform, said LaMond, who has a very simple rule: all personnel must walk the walk to talk the talk. Every employee follows the food plan outlined for patients; each one is healthy and slim, including LaMond. All dressed in black, the female staff adds scarves and boots to add spark while allowing the patient to stand out.
“We have a culture of excellence, and if this isn’t what my staff wants, we’re not afraid to make a change,” he emphasized. “It's best for the patients and the individual who's not working out. We take time and understand someone’s skill sets ... promote from within when able and take time to identify needs … understand when staff is spread too thin (and) create channels of clear communication and expectations.”
In 2009, LaMond opened offices in North Carolina (Arden and Hendersonville) and Tennessee (Brentwood and Chattanooga), primarily in office building suites. Now his practice is so robust, he’s leasing office buildings.
“Our plans for 2013 are to open six ancillary service model clinics within existing practices,” said LaMond. “We’ll provide a turnkey solution to provide weight control and/or hormone therapy services within a practice. We already have commitments from two offices.”
LaMond frequently fields calls from overworked PCPs interested in opening a Blue Sky office, thus eliminating on-call requirements, overtime and other energy-draining issues.
“Blue Sky MD is far superior to any program I’ve studied,” said PCP Gus Vickery, MD, of Vickery Family Medicine in Asheville, NC. “When I saw the program Dave had in place, I dropped my in-house weight loss program and outsourced it. I’d send patients to Dave and they’d come back months later, 40 to 50 pounds lighter and much healthier and happier.”