Medicine: Have You Hugged Your Doctor Today?

High-octane physician Mike Cirigliano is putting the care back in primary care — and maybe revolutionizing the health system while he’s at it

In two years, Cirigliano raised nearly $2 million. “I have patients who have donated artwork and magazine subscriptions, and I have patients who have donated thousands of dollars,” he says. He insists both groups get the exact same care: “The goal is not only to give people the highest quality medical care, but also to treat them like human beings. I want people to walk out of here and say, ‘Holy shit! What just happened? That was the best medical experience I ever had!’”

THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE when you walk into the waiting room of Cirigliano’s office is that the usual cacophony of a family doctor’s office is missing. Instead, it’s startlingly quiet. The receptionists look up and smile the moment you arrive at their desk, and address you as Sir or Ma’am as they efficiently handle the scheduling of appointments, referrals, and any other insurance issues you might have. There’s freshly brewed coffee, and a mesmerizing display of brightly colored fish swimming lazily across a flat-screen TV. Though one would expect to find only high-profile business professionals and Main Line moms checking BlackBerrys or e-mailing on iPhones in a place like this, the intimate waiting room is dotted with patients of lesser means. A silver plaque adorns one wall, etched with the names of those who’ve made all this possible. Steven Dandrea and his wife are there, and so are Snider and Zekavat, along with more than 25 others, including Linda and Tom Knox, -Wendy and Derek Pew, and Aileen and Brian Roberts.

Of course, when you realize what they’re getting, it’s easy to see why so many of Dr. Mike’s patients have generously opened their checkbooks.

“Feel this. This is like a medical Snuggie,” says Cirigliano, holding out a cloth exam gown as we continue the show-and-tell of his practice. “The highest thread count you can buy, not that horrible paper that has your butt hanging out and makes you feel like you can see everything.” I brush my hand across the material — he’s right, it’s softer than my PJs at home. Cirigliano adjusts a switch, and the lights above my head dim. “Typical lighting in doctors’ offices is terrible. If you come in here with a migraine or you just lost a loved one, you don’t want those frickin’ lights. And this,” he says, pointing above us, “is a heating element that keeps the patient warm when it’s really cold out. It’s just a little thing, but again — it’s for patient care.”

Patient care is also why Cirigliano calls his patients on Sundays with lab results, and spends more than half an hour peppering them with questions during even a common physical. It’s why he answers texts from patients, and it’s the reason he took his staff on a trip to the service-centric Four Seasons, so they could get a feel for the consumer-driven experience he was looking to create. It’s why he insisted there be a lab at his office, so patients wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle of going elsewhere for blood work.