At the end of June, suffering from a sore Achilles, 31-year-old Stephanie Jones sought out advice from a primary care physician. He recommended she take a few weeks off. Jones questioned him about treatment while she rested, wondering about foam rolling and other techniques to speed recovery. But the physician dismissed her inquiries and ignored her knowledge of potential approaches, leaving her frustrated.
Jones’ experience was not unlike that of many other runners, who often lament the fact that there aren’t many physicians who “get” them and their specific needs.
Like Jones, Adam St. Pierre, a 35-year-old endurance coach from Boulder, Colo., has also experienced frustration from the healthcare system, although for different reasons. “Living in Boulder, we have a good network of physicians who understand runners,” he says. “But getting an appointment quickly isn’t easy, so you end up waiting to address the issue.”
St. Pierre, however, has found a modern-day solution to the problem, a recently launched online primary care system called SteadyMD. The best part, he says, is that among the areas of care is one designed just for runners.
The new primary care service, which is just beginning to onboard running patients, is the brainchild of Yarone Goren, COO, and Guy Friedman, CEO. The two launched the site last winter as a boutique service that allows patients to develop long-term, preventative care relationships with physicians who understand their particular needs. Niche platforms include fitness and lifting, functional fitness, strength training and power lifting, LGBTQ, and most recently, running. Triathlon is lined up for the near future.
Leading the running vertical for SteadyMD is Mark Cucuzzella, a family physician and professor at West Viriginia School of Medicine, an elite marathoner, and director of the Natural Running Center. “Mark will serve as a consultant to the site,” says Goren. “Our treating physician is Josh Emdur, a family physician and sub-three-hour marathoner. Both of the doctors understand runners, their lifestyles, goals and needs.”
St. Pierre wasn’t suffering from a potential injury when he first connected with SteadyMD, but rather, wanted to establish a baseline of health and consolidate all his medical details in one place. “It was time for me to get all of my basic tests, referrals and information in one place,” he says. “And since I’m a runner, it’s probably a given that I will need a physician in the future, so it’s nice to work with someone who understands the sport.”
In particular, St. Pierre likes the idea that if he does have something amiss, Emdur is less likely to simply say “don’t run” than another physician who isn’t tuned in to the sport. “That’s never what a runner wants to hear,” he says. “I want someone who is going to look at various treatments other than rest.”
The SteadyMD experience begins with an initial, two-way video chat. Patients spend about an hour with their new primary care physician, discussing medical history, family history, diet, exercise and any other pertinent topics. Together, patient and physician can connect through apps and devices so that the physician can see feedback like heart rate, blood sugar, workouts and more. Membership costs $79 per month and requires a 12-month membership. Once in the system, patients can access physicians via text, phone-call appointments, and video chats.
“We keep the number of patients limited so that the physicians can offer them dedicated attention and easy accessibility,” says Goren.
Of course, there will be times when patients will need to see a physician in the flesh. “We look at this as more of a preventative service,” says Goren, “but when a patient needs to see someone in person, we will have a network of local physicians, PTs and the like where we can send them.”
As a coach who works with many of his clients remotely, St. Pierre appreciates and understands this approach. “There are many parallels here, especially with the need for a high-level, back-and-forth commitment,” he says. “So far, it has worked well for me and has been very simple and intuitive. I think it’s a useful model.”