A Retired Doctor’s Struggle to Find Quality Healthcare at Home
(Note: The patient’s name in this story has been changed to protect her privacy)
When we asked Dr. Alice Johnson, a retired physician and Prospero patient since early 2020, to describe her healthcare arrangement, she compared it to a bicycle wheel: she is the wheel’s center, her specialists are the spokes, and Prospero is the tire.
As a former infectious disease physician who is experiencing serious illness, Dr. Johnson is well acquainted with the healthcare system, but she was initially hesitant to take advantage of receiving home-based medical care when contacted by Prospero. Her prior experiences left her unsatisfied.
“Home health care is very important. However, in my opinion (and in my experience), the range in quality is vast. At times I really felt as if they talked down to me or as if they didn’t recognize or appreciate the fact that I knew so much about my underlying diseases and conditions.”Dr. Alice Johnson
But Dr. Johnson overcame her hesitancy and discovered that Prospero is different from other home healthcare services. Almost immediately, Dr. Johnson realized that her Prospero nurse, Leah Garton, and Prospero don’t look at her as just another diagnosis.
“What’s unique about Leah and Prospero is they look at the whole patient and all of his or her conditions, and not in isolation…Leah, as a registered nurse, has taken and looked at all of my interacting health conditions and issues, and has been an invaluable resource for my cardiologist, neurologist, internist, and other specialists. And when I can’t get a hold of one of them, I can reach out to Leah 24/7.”
Dr. Johnson’s interest in medicine took hold when her father had a heart attack that took his life. “Medicine became my passion,” she says, while recalling with precision the dissecting of a frog in eighth grade, a simple act that helped spark her ambitions. Dr. Johnson went on to put herself through college (sometimes working three jobs and 40 hours a week) while attending school full-time at the University of California. Dr. Johnson then went to Dartmouth Medical School before moving to New York City to complete her residency.
In New York City, between 1980 to 1987, Dr. Johnson witnessed the birth of the HIV epidemic from the front lines. As a newly minted physician, she was at the forefront of the crisis. She remembers, “It was a life-changing opportunity and years of just incredible growth development.”
Fast forward to the present: Dr. Johnson is as passionate about medicine as ever, and so grateful she found Prospero. Along with her service dog, a labrador retriever named Reese, Prospero allows Dr. Johnson to maintain her independence, while providing her with a variety of resources. Leah, in particular, has proven to be invaluable, providing communication, companionship, and collaboration with Dr. Johnson’s physicians, home health aide, and family.
“Leah is the consummate professional,” says Dr. Johnson. She describes Leah as calm, passionate, and committed. According to Dr. Johnson, Leah is always available by telephone and “asks appropriate, probing questions to really know how I’m feeling. But more importantly, she offers valuable suggestions.”
Leah says, “I love the Prospero model. Really, the patients get the care they need as we go into the home, where we see what’s really going on.” Dr. Johnson has seen significant change in her life. Before, she was in and out of the hospital every few months. Now, thanks to Leah and the Prospero team, she remains safely at home where she can relish her independence. “We’ve given Dr. Johnson hope,” says Leah, “Her family has also recognized her quality of life has dramatically improved.”
In addition to Leah’s services as a registered nurse, Prospero’s physician-led care teams provide access to doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, and 24/7 care support. This comprehensive care team works with Dr. Johnson’s other doctors to make sure her care is coordinated and her medical and non-medical needs are met – while she remains safely at home.
Leah’s collaborations with Dr. Johnson’s other doctors have been essential, such as when Leah was able to prevent Dr. Johnson from being hospitalized for a urinary tract infection. “Dr. Johnson called me on a Friday when her primary care physician wasn’t available. The Prospero care team arranged for her sample to be dropped off at the lab and we put her on antibiotics. I called the physician the following Monday and let them know that was what we had to do over the weekend…it prevented hospitalization,” remembered Leah.
As Dr. Johnson admitted, she is an extremely challenging critic when it comes to the quality of care she receives, but her confidence and trust in Prospero’s home-based medical care model is unwavering and steady. Much like a perfectly tuned bicycle wheel.
“I tried some agencies to help me manage my health challenges, but Prospero’s been the first medical provider that could do it all-encompassing. It wasn’t just nitpicking my neurological problem or my heart problem. And as a physician, particularly as an internist, you need to look at the whole patient and all of his or her illnesses or conditions and think of them holistically because treating one can impact the other.”