Living the ‘BestLife’

New practice set to revolutionize health care in Anthem

By Christopher Boan

Dr. Samantha Maplethorpe came to Anthem a half-decade ago with a career’s worth of experience as a health care provider and a dream of revolutionizing the field.

Maplethorpe, who earned a medical doctorate and Master of Public Health degree, previously served as a family physician in Issaquah, Washington, after completing her residency at Swedish Medical Center in the Seattle area.

She came to Anthem with a dream of starting her own practice in the northern reaches of the Valley, bringing back the doctor-patient relationship that brought her into the field.

Maplethorpe knew the only way she’d be able to do it would be to open a direct primary care operation offering its services in a wholesale manner, where one price would cover most of a patient’s needs.

She also knew, from her experiences in the field, she wanted her services to be free of the clutches of the health care insurance industry, which she saw as burdensome to serving her patients’ needs.

“I was trying to provide all these resources for patients and seeing the dramatically improved outcomes, it’s just a scary place to be in primary care,” Maplethorpe says. “With insurance ratcheting down reimbursement. With prior authorizations and stress on staff, and trying to juggle all the balls, and thinking no matter what you say to a patient, the insurance company’s in there with you. And it’s not always in the patient’s best interest.”

Maplethorpe set out to become the first direct primary care facility in Anthem, enlisting longtime friend, Jenifer Tuttle, to serve as clinic director of the new BestLife Family Medicine at their proposed site.

The duo set out to re-envision how health care services could be delivered, launching BestLife inside a temporary office at the Chamber of Commerce hall in the fall of 2018, while getting the groundwork started on their facility, located at 3719 W. Anthem Way, Suite 102, a figurative stone’s throw from Interstate 17.

Maplethorpe and Tuttle’s facility, which officially opens its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday, January 9, offers patients a full slate of wellness offerings, from a gym with a Peleton bicycle, treadmills and various free weights, to a full kitchen where patients can learn how to cook healthy foods.

The greatest part of BestLife’s slate of offerings, according to Maplethorpe, is patients can use the space as much or as little as they’d like, with a monthly charge of $150 covering as many visits as a person desires.

Maplethorpe said her past experience utilizing lifestyle medicine tactics, like finding natural ways to reduce stress and find restorative sleep, influenced her decision to include such a wide swath of options to her BestLife patients.

“In order to put all of those pieces together, we needed a clinic that had sort of a medical home model, where people can feel this is their space,” Maplethorpe says. “They’re invited to come and meal prep. We use a lot of books and resources to teach patients when they’re not here in the clinic.

“So, inviting them to come in and try some of those recipes they’re asked to try as they build their culinary skills, while also inviting them into the fitness studio to be able to participate in both instructor-led and virtual courses is all part of our 360-care approach.”

Tuttle shares Maplethorpe’s vision for the space, with an eye toward finding ways to serve each of their patient’s needs, so they can live healthy, productive lives.

The key for Tuttle is patients are invested in their health, so they can feel a desire to come and see their doctor, rather than waiting and lamenting having to do so.

She sees the culinary kitchen as a game-changer, as it’ll allow both of them to stay invested in their patient’s eating habits, which will keep them on the right path toward full health and wellness.

“Patients will come in and see us one to two times sometimes, or maybe every one to two weeks, depending on where they’re at in their journey,” Tuttle says. “Where we sit down with those patients for 45 minutes and really talk them through goals, how to reach those goals, and holding patients accountable. Because so many people don’t have an accountability partner in their medical field, helping them to not only know what direction to make those changes but then to support them in that.”

Tuttle says the staff at BestLife can help patients set personal fitness and wellness goals, while also discovering the things that might trigger their dietary struggles.

The best part for both is having virtual ways of checking in with those they serve, allowing them to keep up with their patients, even when they’re apart.

“They have access to us virtually, so some patients don’t even need to come into the office,” Tuttle says. “So, if they’re traveling or they’re on vacation, they can still access their doctor. We have the ability to use a product allowing Dr. Maplethorpe to look into a patient’s ears, or to look into their throat, listen to a heartbeat, even when she’s not in the same room as them.”

Perhaps the greatest plus side of direct primary care, according to Maplethorpe, is the reduction in cost from not having to deal with insurance companies for common medical needs.

This affordability aspect, in combination with relationship-building between her staff and their patients, allows BestLife to offer a truly unique, full package of wellness offering that very few others in the state can match.

Maplethorpe compares BestLife to other wholesale companies, like Costco, that offer low prices and savings to members, by buying items in bulk.

“Direct Primary Care has kind of revolutionized healthcare and really brought back that doctor-patient relationship,” Maplethorpe says. “So many physicians and patients feel they’ve lost because of what’s happened with our health care system.

“But one of the essential tenets of primary care is its affordability. So, when patients start thinking about ‘Oh, it’s an additional expense at a membership practice,’ one of the things we’ve been able to really emphasize for them is with BestLife, your membership means you get everything at-cost.”

It’s the affordability and access that brought Manny Chazan, who owns Work Hard Play Hard Marketing, into the BestLife family.

Chazan, 54, met Maplethorpe during a Chamber meeting and immediately was drawn to her idea of what healthcare can be.

“I don’t like going to the doctor, I don’t think any man does,” Chazan says. “And the ability to have the doctor at my beck and call, whether it’s an appointment or a phone call or FaceTime and have the peace of mind she’s going to see me whenever I need was huge for me.”

Chazan says he was sold the first time he met with Maplethorpe for an appointment at their old space at the chamber when she spent ample time going over a wellness plan that served his needs.

“I figured I’d come in and do some bloodwork and get checked out and see what’s going on,” he says. “And sure enough, I have my appointment with her. I spent at least two hours with her on the first day and who does that? I mean, that doesn’t ever happen. They’re always looking at their watch or in a hurry when you go to the clinics.

“So anyway, I got my results back and it was a rude awakening. My blood pressure was high, my cholesterol was off the charts. I was overweight, I wasn’t feeling good.”

Over time, Chazan and Maplethorpe were able to visualize a plan that would get him back in top order, to fight off ailments like diabetes and hypertension, which come from improper diet.

“So, over the next two months or so, I really changed my eating habits. I followed everything she told me to do very strictly,” Chazan says. “And within a month the cholesterol was down, the blood pressure was down, and I was feeling good. And now it’s a matter of a whole different life change.

I appreciate her very much and she’s going to do wonders. I’m excited about this place.”

Others, like 40-year-old Edina Halilovic, found Maplethorpe’s clinic at a friend’s recommendation.

The decision to join the clinic came after an emergency left Halilovic in need of care, with Tuttle and Maplethorpe answering the call.

“I wasn’t even a member and she ended up helping me. She was actually out of town and we were communicating remotely,” Halilovic says. “You know, Jenifer took a picture and she sent it to Dr. Maplethorpe and so I really love the fact I could get help remotely, even if she wasn’t there at the time.

“So, originally when I did sign up it was for the convenience. That I can actually get ahold of a doctor if I really need something. And to me it’s really important because we’re all busy and I really don’t want to drive somewhere and go just to ask a question.”

Halilovic soon found out Maplethorpe and Tuttle’s care served her needs, offering unmatched service at a price that couldn’t be beaten.

“And so, I realized with BestLife, when you need something you have to go to one stop and you don’t waste time driving,” she says. “Oftentimes you go somewhere, you have an appointment time and you still end up waiting an hour in a waiting room. Not here. Plus, I can even text my questions later.”

Halilovic added BestLife’s weight loss program has been a huge boost for her, as it’s allowed her to build a program to work while keeping her responsible for doing everything needed to maintain a healthy weight.

“I’m currently working with BestLife on my weight loss goals, so they’re keeping me accountable to reach them,” Halilovic says. “I’m starting with small steps but with them, I’m going to reach my ultimate fitness goals. I also love their walk and talk meetings with the doctor. It’s less formal than sitting in the office and talking with Dr. Maplethorpe is like talking to a friend.”

Perhaps the greatest aspect of direct primary care, according to Maplethorpe, is she’s able to once again invest her time into making sure her patients’ needs are met.

She wants each of her clients to know they can reach her wherever and whenever they want, as her main job is to ensure their needs are met.

“One of the things about family medicine people are starting to learn is it’s very much based in evidence-based medicine,” Maplethorpe says. “And so, evidence means that, whether we have a patient with thyroid cancer or we have a patient who has high cholesterol, but in the need that we need a specialist’s opinion, we do have the technology to position an entire patient case in front of an expert in that field and ask those questions.”

Maplethorpe remembers leaving residency and joining a private practice in Washington with a goal of providing unmatched care for her patients.

She soon discovered the realities and pitfalls of the current healthcare system, with long hours spent pouring over charts and paperwork, with little time to spend with her actual patients.

“When I came out of my residency, I sat myself in private practice, because I have three kids and I was done telling them which holiday I wasn’t going to see them on,” Maplethorpe says. “I had worked in enough clinics that were hospital-owned to know the existing model of watching all kinds of people pushing charts was fueled by the number of patients you have to see in one day and the time it took to see them.

“Having an administrator who might not understand what it’s like to see or treat patients didn’t really make sense to me either. So, I’d be staying for hours and hours working on my charts, rather than being able to take my laptop home and work on charts after my kids went to bed. So, I knew I wanted to be in private practice. And that was the beginning of, ‘OK, if it’s going to be private practice, what’s it going to look like, how can I make medicine better’.”

Maplethorpe’s past experience in medicine taught her a lot about the aspects, both savory and disdainful, that were ever-present in today’s health care system.

She knew there had to be a way to boil down the positive aspects of the system and remove the obstacles, so as to serve patients in the most effective, efficient manner possible.

“I used to always tell patients, ‘you learn from your patients in family medicine,’ and hopefully in every specialty,” Maplethorpe says. “But if you listen well, patients will teach you a lot about health and healing. In medicine, we’re trained to get out the prescription pad and treat diabetes to an A1C at 6.4 or lower.

“What I learned over time from patients is it’s pretty easy to master the prescription pad. The fundamentals of this diagnosis and disease and this prescription, what goes together is pretty solidified by the time you’re 10 years in practice. But there’s more to modern medicine than prescriptions.”

Maplethorpe’s methods have paid dividends already for members, like Halilovic, who realized wellness cannot wait.

“You have to do it now versus later,” she says. “At BestLife, it’s not about just going to your primary care physician when you’re sick like most people do. It’s about changing your lifestyle and to support you being healthy. They care for the whole me.”

Tuttle added, “We like to say best is what’s ahead for Anthem’s health care with our opening. It is our commitment to take this one-of-a-kind practice and deliver on that message every day.”

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