WBOC Leading Lady: Dr. Tina Chee – A more focused approach to medicine

By Alyssa Dearborn

When Dr. Tina Chee started her practice with Up Design Primary Care, she wanted to enhance the collaborative journey between the patient and the physician. Building her business with a philosophy focusing on better health through lifestyle habits, Dr. Chee aims to help people live healthier lives. 

What I’m interested in is helping people live their healthiest, and so a lot of the time in the conventional insurance-based practice, there’s just not a lot of time that patients and doctors can spend together to talk about changes they can make and really get behind the reasons for their symptoms,” she said when asked about why she started her practice. “And so, I was looking for a model of care that would allow me to spend enough time with my patients to give me better autonomy to practice. So that led me to finding out about this model called direct primary care.” 

Unlike most healthcare practices, Dr. Chee’s practice uses a direct primary care model in which patients pay a subscription price. Patients then have access to many services offered within the practice.

That includes most of my services,” she said. “So whether someone needs a physical, sick visit, on-going management, regular touch-bases, it includes all of that as well as the more guaranteed appointment access.

This model allows her to spend more time with each patient, and appointments generally take 30 minutes to an hour, depending on people’s needs. Patients also have the ability to email or text her directly, rather than going through several different people to get a response from their doctor.

It’s kind of going back to the way things were before this whole focus on volume and just getting as many patients through the door as possible,” she said. 

But the direct primary care model is not just a business model. For Dr. Chee, the model is a cornerstone of how she can better connect with her patients. 

I see myself as a visitor in the patient’s life. Everyone has a certain preference, things that they’ve seen through life. So I’m more of the mindset that I’m there to help and can [help] think through their preferences and the risks and benefits of certain choices with medications and achieving their health goals,” she said. “One of the first questions I ask people is ‘what are your health goals?’ because I really like to be able to help people reverse certain things that are related to causing their disease. There’s high blood pressure, diabetes, issues related to higher weight going on and oftentimes you really need some help, not just the doctor telling you what to do, but helping you reach specific goals, making small changes over time to reach those big goals.”  

The direct care model can also be beneficial to the healthcare provider, allowing doctors to provide more focused service to a smaller number of patients and avoid burnout.

I think that there is a lot of challenges related to physician burnout and a lot of that is related to the way that the system is structured,” she explained. “It’s really back to the relationship between doctors and patients and that’s what people are seeking: to have a good relationship with their doctor, to be able to talk to them and address their concerns. The impact is with this direct primary care model, what I see, is part of the answer. Maybe not the whole answer, but part of the answer.”

One of Dr. Chee’s popular offerings at her practice is her weight loss program. The program, which is planning to start a new session in September, is a six-month program that combines one-on-one appointments with small group sessions with other people enrolled in the program. 

It’s a combination of the medical evaluation, so one-on-one visits with me,” she explained, “and we’ll go through your medical history, if there are certain weight loss medications that are a fit for you. And also an every-other-week group session where it’s a small group of a few people and we go through topics that are related to health. [It’s] both education and setting goals together and accountability. So it’s kind of everything you need to have a natural process to lose weight as well as adjusting to healthier lifestyles.” 

When asked about how the WBOC has helped her run her business, she said how being around other entrepreneurial-minded women has helped to inspire and motivate her.

I think a lot of times when you are on this journey of building a business, it’s helpful to have a community to talk through some of the challenges and to have support and to just have community,” she said. “Because, you know, finding your tribe is really important in terms of just having that support network. That’s been one of them. I think that just the women that I’ve met who are building their own dreams as well is always inspirational.”

But for Dr. Chee, her practice is not just a business, it’s her way of helping people live a better, healthier life.

At the end of the day, talking to my patients and helping them improve their health. I think it’s super rewarding to help people reverse their diabetes, to help them get to a healthier weight so that they can start feeling better, not just because of the weight number,” she said. “There’s so many symptoms related to weight, like acid reflux, pain, less mobility, mood symptoms, and to help them just feel better.”

To learn more about Up Design Primary Care, visit www.updesignprimarycare.com.