The Recovering Doctor: Robert Lamberts, MD

Dr. Rob Lamberts is a primary care physician in Augusta GA, where he has practiced since 1994. He practiced “traditional” fee-for-service medicine until 2012, when he left his old practice and started, Dr. Rob Lamberts, LLC, a direct primary care practice. Since that time he has grown the practice to over 800 patients and has recently allied with three other providers locally to build a network of direct primary care (Welcome Health Network) to market services to local businesses.

Dr. Rob has always been interested in practice innovations, first focusing on the use of computer technology to improve care. This resulted in his practice receiving the Davies Award for Primary Care from the Health Information Systems Society (HIMSS) in 2003. The culmination of his interest in practice innovation came in 2013, when he opened his current practice using the direct primary care model. This model freed him from the constraints of the insurance payment system and allowed innovation with a high focus on care quality.

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Dr. Rob Lamberts

Dr. Lamberts grew up in Rochester, NY, did undergraduate studies at Houghton College (Houghton, NY). He attended medical school at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and did a combined internal medicine/pediatric residency at Indiana University in Indianapolis. Additionally, since 2005 Dr. Rob has written a medical blog, “Musings of a Distractible Mind,” which has been featured on popular websites, including KevinMD, The Health Care Blog, The New York Times Health Blog, and others. He’s well-known for his mix of medical narrative, humor, and the intermittent appearance of llamas in his writing.

Dr. Lamberts Prescription for Success:

Number 1. Define “success” for yourself. It comes down to your values. I valued quality of patient care and was unwilling to succumb to the pressures from the healthcare payment system to lower my standards. If that meant I left my practice and took a huge financial risk, then I was willing to do it. It was my unwavering belief in this (and the fact that it was my way of doing things all a long) that gave me strength to power through this.

Number 2. Focus on the small, but think big. I could only affect a small population of people, my patients. I even had to contract the number of people I was caring for so I could truly give good care. But then my writing, my mentoring of other physicians, and my example to others has led to a much bigger impact than I would ever have guessed. Small things that are well-placed can lead to large changes.

Number 3. Be patient. I wanted to do it all, once I got the picture of what a radical difference direct care could give. But then I realized that my vision was one that would not be reached until far in the future. I was very discouraged for a bit, but then realized that I had to focus on what I had in my power to do NOW. I realized that my patients just wanted access to me and that was radical enough for them. I’ve since built it out over time and have continued to exceed their expectations.

Connect with Dr. Lamberts:

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/doctorrob/
Blog: https://more-distractible.org/
Website: https://doctorlamberts.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/doc_rob
Dr. Lambert’s TEDxTalk, “Hi, I’m Rob, and I’m a Recovering Doctor”: https://youtu.be/eJYJPWpAX-Y

Notable quotes from Dr. Lamberts’s interview

I grew up in a family where knowledge and education was important, but grades were not as important.

And it was when I started drinking strong coffee and lots of it that I started doing well, that was my drug of choice in college.

The reality is that private medical practices are first a business and then a medical practice. Because if you don’t have a business, then you can’t have a medical practice. And I don’t mean that the business is more important; it’s just first you have to have money to practice medicine.

And it was at that point in time that my partners realized my obsession with patient care was in getting in the way of the business.

It’s far more important what happens between office visits than what happens in the office visit.

I am focused very much on value for my patients.

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