Wednesday, July 17, 2024


Changes at One of Westport’s Oldest Medical Practices

By Gordon Joseloff

There are big changes occurring at one of Westport’s oldest medical practices, Internal Medicine Associates of Westport (IMAW). Image
Moving downstairs: (l-r) Drs. David Baum, Jill Denowitz, Nina Karol, and Robert Telster. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Four of the seven IMAW doctors are leaving to form their own concierge medicine practice — David Baum (nine years at IMAW), Jill Denowitz (23 years), Nina Karol (18 years), and Robert Telster (10 years).

Three doctors are remaining at IMAW — Robert Altbaum (the senior doctor at 35 years), Jay Horn (18 years), and Elizabeth Mckinnis (two years). Additional personnel have been hired.

IMAW’s origins go back almost six decades when Paul Beres and Harold Steinberg opened a practice on Main Street. Later it moved to 162 Kings Highway North and two years ago to 333 Post Road West.

The new practice is called Concierge Physicians of Westport (CPW) and is located on the garden level of the same building as IMAW at 333 Post Road West. In smaller space, it will open for business on July 17.

Concierge medicine, in which the patient pays an annual fee or retainer (starting at $2,500 at CPW) is not new to Westport. It was first offered about eight years ago and most of the doctors at IMAW participated.

“Health care has generally become depersonalized and based on insurance and is volume driven,” said Baum, 46.

“We would like to operate independently and take care of our patients with their welfare as the top priority.”

Doctor burnout is often cited for the move to concierge medicine. No precise figures were available for individual patient load of the departing IMAW physicians. But Baum said the seven doctors had a roster of roughly 14,000 patients.

Altbaum, 66, also a well-known musician in the popular DNR band, says he and his remaining colleagues are saddened at the departure of the others. Image
Before the breakup (2014 photo) (Back row, l-r): Robert Teltser, Jay Horn, Nina Karol, and Robert Altbaum; (front row) David Baum, Jill Denowitz, and Robert Dresdner (no longer with the practice). (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

“The separation has been amicable, but obviously we would have preferred the group to stay intact,” he said. 

He noted that the medicine landscape has changed with shifting alliances between medical practitioners, groups and hospitals. “Our practice’s dissolution is part of this evolution,” he said.

He said he and Horn were asked to join the departing physicians but declined for similar reasons.

“We have been caring for our patients for many years and have developed strong relationships,” Altbaum said. “We feel a responsibility to continue caring for all of our patients.

“The community has been very loyal to our medical practice and both Dr. Horn and I feel the need to reciprocate that loyalty. We cannot envision taking care of only a select group of patients when all of our patients have been so devoted to us and IMAW.”

The changing face of medicine in Westport reflects changes nationwide.

Up until 2007, the IMAW doctors saw patients when hospitalized. But under pressure of the workload, that ended. Now the doctors confer with “hospitalists,” who work full time at hospitals. As for house calls, they went out many years ago.

The advantages of concierge medicine for CPW patients are more and longer personal attention.

“By limiting our practice sizes, we can focus on each patient and get to know them so if something happens, we are better able to care for them,” Baum said.

“We will also have more time to work on disease prevention and coordination of care due to the lower volume of patients.” Image
Joining IMAW: (l-r) Kevin McDonald, physician assistant, and Drs. Karen Stone Earls and Mario Pinto. Contributed photos

The more personal attention, Baum said, includes 24/7 physician access via phone, email, and text. There will also be HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant and medically secure channels for communication between doctor and patient.

The new practice will accept all major insurance plans as well as assignment for Medicare.

“We are in-network providers, which is an added convenience for our patients in that they will not have to submit claim forms for office visits,” said Baum.

He added that patients interested in signing up should do so as soon as possible because there is no guarantee of acceptance once the maximum allotment of patients is reached.

The new staff joining IMAW are Drs. Karen Stone Earls, who most recently worked at Milford Physician Services, and Mario A. Pinto, a fluent Spanish speaker who completed his residency at NYU Lutheran Medical Center with a focus of evidence-based primary care, and physician assistant Kevin McDonald, most recently with St. Vincent Multispecialty Group of Fairfield.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *