WELLNESS

For the One Percent, the Latest in Comfort Are Private Medical Concierges

Private medical concierges give new meaning to the words “on call.”


Illustration by Jean-Philippe Delhomme

What do you do if you’re diving in the remote Marquesas Islands, in French Polynesia, and are bitten by an impertinent moray eel? If you’re a member of a certain famous—and phenomenally wealthy—family, you connect via secure video link with your on-call medical concierge, who walks you through how to clean the wound and dress it to promote proper drainage (eww!), and locate the correct antibiotic in your handy personal prescription medical kit (designed for convenient jet or yacht stowage). Require evacuation? A detailed plan is already in place.

At WorldClinic, a 19-year-old global concierge telemedicine practice founded by Daniel Carlin, M.D., a former U.S. Navy chief medical officer, dealing with needy plutocrats, tech titans, and household-name celebs is par for the course. (For bigwigs attending events like Davos, Carlin even sends ahead Special Operations Forces–trained medics and a “clinical surveyor” to map out nearby resources and assemble a tactical response team in case of a crisis.)

“We were among the most aggressive first adopters of digital communications and real-time sensor technology in concierge medicine,” Carlin says. “But for the moment, apps and screens are still just important tools. Eighty percent of what we do involves actual listening and caring, two things that are essentially punished by the insurance-based health care system.”

In fact, many people who don’t rely on insurance for their medical needs—and are willing to spend upwards of five figures a year for super-well-connected concierge doctors—value house calls as much for dealing with legitimate emergencies as for the privacy, convenience, and personal touch they provide. “We bring the ER to the patient,” says general practitioner Paul Ettlinger, who founded the London General Practice, a chichi private clinic that offers all manner of health care services and around-the-clock access to royals, media luminaries, and pop stars (we’re talking Adele here). “I’ve never taken a symptom at face value. Someone once called with what they thought was indigestion, and it turned out to be a heart attack.”

Such personalized service can have its perils—but not for the patient. “If you really want to offer a comprehensive service, you mustn’t question why people are calling at 2 a.m.,” Ettlinger continues. He recalls a gentleman who answered the door in a silk negligee, requesting an enema. “I told him I have a nurse who does that.” Still, he remains unfazed. “It’s simple,” he says. “I got into medicine to help people.”

Helping such high-flyers often involves ensuring they can jump the line when they need specialized care; like that hotel concierge who magically produces house seats for Hamilton, a doctor concierge worth his or her fee can quickly set you up with the crème de la crème in whatever area of medical expertise you require. At its best, says Katja A. Van Herle, M.D., the founder of Premier Health Care in Beverly Hills, “directed medicine” is a mixture of old-school doctoring (she even carries a vintage doctor’s valise to house calls) and knowledge of the most cutting-edge protocols. “I will come to you, hold your hand, and set up an ICU in your bedroom if needed. The only time I switched off my phone was on my wedding day, 12 years ago.”

Barney Kenet, M.D., a Manhattan concierge dermatologist, recalls the famous New York designer who had an unfortunate facial during Fashion Week and asked for an emergency consultation at a local Starbucks so that her staff wouldn’t know she was taking a vanity break. He has flown to Martha’s Vineyard to see one of his patients, and sent a courier to Russia to retrieve a rare drug for another. According to Kenet, even high-powered executives are bewildered by health care. “It transcends affluence. No one knows how to navigate the system, unless you’re a doctor or have one in the family.”

Indeed, for all of the recent advances in the medical world (supercomputers like IBM’s Watson are already providing better diagnostics than humans), the strategy for choosing a concierge doctor remains as low-tech as ever. “Word of mouth,” says San Francisco internist Clifford Sewell, who in 1998 founded Discover Health, an exclusive practice that caters to family-oriented Silicon Valley types. “Good news ­travels quickly in small networks.”

Technology adviser Shannon Getty, who lives in San Francisco with her husband, Peter, and their two children, did extensive research before selecting Sewell’s team. It was important for her to have sophisticated preventative care and a pediatrician on call “for nervous mommy questions in the middle of the night.” She says she won’t go back to a conventional general practice. “I know regular doctors are doing the best they can, but what has happened to our medical system is deplorable,” she says. “I can’t fix it by myself, but I can decide where to put my discretionary income, and what could be a better investment than top-notch health care for my family? I don’t need another outfit.”

The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide: 155 Gift Ideas from Martha Stewart, Lily Aldridge and Other People We Love

When Martha Stewart throws a holiday party, she doesn’t mess around. Every year, about 10 days before Christmas, America’s high priestess of entertaining invites more than 200 guests to her Bedford, New York, farm for an over-the-top open house straight out of the pages of her namesake magazine. There are strolling carolers and multiple Christmas hams; giant bowls of oysters, shucked à la minute and served with champagne; and one entire house (there are three on the property) devoted solely to festive desserts. “You never know what or who you’re going to see,” Stewart says. “Last year, Blake Lively came with her two children, and when you look at them sitting on the floor eating a giant piece of meringue cake, it’s just fantastic. They’re so beautiful, and they’re stuffing themselves! It’s special for them.” Special for everyone, really. How could it not be, when the main house alone is festooned with a minimum of 20 Christmas trees? “But it doesn’t look overdecorated,” Stewart is quick to point out. “You don’t feel like you’re walking into Bergdorf Goodman or something—at least, I hope not.” For Stewart, Christmas Eve itself is a more intimate affair, spent with her two young grandchildren and her daughter, Alexis, at their place in the city, where the family feasts on Alexis’s homemade fettuccine with truffles or caviar and opens their no-doubt gorgeously wrapped presents. Martha’s rule of thumb for successful gifting is simple: “If it’s something I desperately want to keep for myself, I know it’s really nice.”

Martha Stewart, at home in Bedford, New York, wears 
a Row sweater and Charvet shirt; Heidi Carey earrings.

Photograph by Maciek Kobielski, Styled by Nora Milch; Hair by Megan O’Connor; Make-Up by Daisy Schwartzberg Toye

Claus Porto guest soaps, $22 for set of 15, amazon.com

Stuart Tyson, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Martha Stewart Collection zester, $12, macys.com

Pineider stationery gift box, $495, pineider.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by Anne Cardena for Halley Resources

Brock Collection skirt, $1,890, brock-collection.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Ariel Dearie Flowers floral arrangement, $275, arieldearieflowers.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Stewart wears Brunello Cucinelli coat; the Row shirt; Mish New York earrings; her own sunglasses.

Photograph by Maciek Kobielski, Styled by Nora Milch; Hair by Megan O’Connor; Make-Up by Daisy Schwartzberg Toye

Gjusta olive oil, $14, gjusta.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Munnu the Gem Palace rings, prices upon request, munnuthegempalace.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Martha Stewart Collection cake stand with dome, $23, macys.com

Intimissimi tank, $49, and shorts, $44, intimissimi.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Dior Fine Jewelry earrings, price upon request, dior.com

Courtesy of Dior Fine Jewelry

Tod’s sandals, $645, tods.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

La DoubleJ Housewives plate, $70, ladoublej.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Omega watch, $21,300, omegawatches.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

March candles, $10 for two, marchsf.com

Courtesy of March

The Aldridge family, a fashion-oriented clan that boasts nine siblings, including the photographer Miles and the models Saffron and Ruby, is a close-knit one. “It’s full of characters,” says Lily Aldridge, a model as well, who has strutted the Victoria’s Secret runway for nearly a decade. “And it’s everything to me.” So when she married Kings of Leon frontman Caleb Followill in 2011, she was eager to start her own. A year later, she gave birth to daughter Dixie Pearl. “She’s made me stronger and braver; before her I played it safe. Now I just want to have fun.” That sentiment is particularly exuberant during the holidays, which she now spends in Nashville. “I go crazy decorating the house—lights, reindeer, mistletoe, you name it.” And aside from surfing lessons and a Bulgari Serpenti ring, this year she’s asking Santa for a day at Disneyland with her daughter. “I love it—any excuse I have during Paris Fashion Week to go to Disneyland Paris, I take,” she says. “I’m a kid at heart.”

Courtesy of Lily Aldridge

Hazel Village bear doll, $42, hazelvillage.com

Courtesy of the Designers

Christofle bowl, $160, cristofle.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Molli socks, $53.

Courtesy of the Designers

Parrot drone, $600, parrot.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources

Happiest Baby Snoo Smart Sleeper, $1,160, happiestbaby.com

Courtesy of the Designers

Herno kids’ parka, $585, farfetch.com

Courtesy of the Designers

Mary Poppins set by P.L. Travers (Juniper Books), $135, modaoperandi.com

Courtesy of the Designers

Bonpoint sweater, $220, melijoe.com

Courtesy of the Designers

Chiara Ferragni, aka the Blonde Salad, is all over the place: A typical week could find her hopping from Los Angeles to Milan to New York and back. Since she launched her lifestyle blog in 2009 as a platform to promote her epic adventures and the casual-chic wardrobe she brings along, Ferragni has amassed millions of Instagram followers; worked with brands like Louis Vuitton and Dior; and introduced the Chiara Ferragni Collection. So when it comes to the holidays, she is happy to stay put—and bring her family to her. “The rule is that I fly everybody, but they have to take care of the cooking,” she says. “I never cook for myself—imagine cooking for 12 people!”

Chiara Ferragni wears a Massimo Dutti shirt; Faris earrings.

Emman Montalvan, Styled by Samantha Traina at Streeters, Hair by Luke Chamberlain, Makeup by Christian McCulloch for NARS Cosmetics at Streeters. photography Assistant: Sergiy Barchuk; Fashion Assistant: Julia Chu

Ana Khouri necklace, $150,000, anakhouri.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson

Agent Provocateur bra, $130, and panties, $115, agentprovocateur.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson

Swarovski choker, $200, swarovski.com

David Yurman: Cable book (Rizzoli), $95, amazon.com

Josephine Schiele, Styled by John Olson for Halley Resources;
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Watch: The Official Martha Stewart Holiday Handbook

The Official Martha Stewart Holiday Handbook