There's a fountain in the lobby of Vitality Medical and Wellness Center, the new Northwest practice that opened its doors this week.
The fountain makes a point and sets a tone, Drs. Deepali Rastogi and Mahesh Tipirneni agree.
"It's a medical office with a spa feel," Rastogi said Thursday, as people scurried about getting ready for last Saturday's ribbon cutting.
"So when people come in here, they feel relaxed, not like a doctor's office," Tipirneni said.
Drs. Rastogi and Tipirneni are wife and husband, with two young children. He is a board-certified internal medicine practitioner who works in the emergency room at the Veterans Administration hospital, and she is a board-certified family practitioner who has worked at the El Rio Community Health Center.
Joining the physicians at Vitality Medical and Wellness Center is a staff that includes a fitness instructor, a massage therapist, two nutritionists, two stress therapists, two aestheticians, three receptionists and two medical assistants. The new practice represents what these two physicians want medicine to be; namely holistic, anticipatory, or in Tipirneni's words, "trying to solve the root of the problem."
In current medicine, "we're prolonging life, but not improving quality," Tipirneni said. "We want to improve the quality.
"By profession, I am a pill pusher," Tipirneni said. "We do too much in medicine in general to put out fires. We don't do enough to prevent that from happening. This is beyond that, although we can put out fires, too."
The office look and feel extends to a different approach to healthcare, they believe.
As an example, most medical appointments are 10 to 15 minutes. "Our appointments are a lot longer," Tipirneni said, with schedules of 30 minutes, an hour and longer. The desire "is to have you seen within five minutes of your appointment."
"We're stressing the quality, not the quantity," Tipirneni said.
"A client could spend six or seven hours here," he continued. They could visit a doctor, have an acupuncture treatment, talk about nutrition, reduce stress, have their posture analyzed, exercise, remove unwanted hair, partake in skin care, have a massage … there are many possibilities. There'd be a nutritious meal in there, too.
"It's pampering, it's a spa, but why can't a medical practice treat people like that?" he asked.
Traditional, "primary care" is "a very small percentage of the practice, because we do all these other things," Tipirneni said. "A lot of these services are not insurance-covered." Patients should "check to see if they're covered" by insurance policies. Vitality is outsourcing its insurance communication needs.
"Doctors these days are too distracted by paperwork," Tipirneni said. "We want to minimize that, and put the emphasis back on patient care."
Tipirneni uses his hands as planes of health. When we are ill, and dip below par, modern medicine tries to bring us back to where we were. But there is little attention to enhancement. "We're trying to bring you up here," above where you are now, Tipirneni gestures.
Patient care includes "a real comprehensive evaluation," one that might include blood work, detailed personal history, identification of goals and needs. "We could tailor a package, all encompassing, every aspect, to get Mr. Smith from this point to that," Tipirneni said.
"You have to have the desire," he emphasized. "You're willing to listen, and willing to make some of these changes, and willing to work. It's a partnership."
"We just help them find balance," said integrative nutritionist Tiffany Rose Wood. "Happy is healthy, and healthy is happy." She helps clients "tweak your choices. My biggest word is moderation." And, she said, nourishment is more than what you eat; it's also "what you have in your life."
"When you're 70, why can't you still go play golf, or swim?" Tipirneni said. If people are vital "in their 80s and 90s, we've reached our goal. There's not a rule that says you can't be doing those things."
The doctors have thought about opening a practice since 2007. "Since then, we've been getting the additional training we've needed," through classes, online programs and extensive reading, which continuing at their full-time jobs.
Their lives have been a blur of work, a "roller coaster of emotions" as the opening neared. They have two children, Sahara and Milan, ages 4 and 3.
"We like this concept, and let's build upon that," Tipirneni said. "If I was a patient, this was what I would want. It's not about putting out fires. Take a spa feeling, and put it in a doctor's office."
Vitality Medical & Wellness Center
7448 N. La Cholla, in the La Cholla Corporate Center across from Foothills Mall.
Vitality Medical Center and Spa occupies a custom-designed, 3,500-square-foot facility with:
• a multi-purpose conference room, flexible enough for group classes on subjects such as nutrition, and for exercise sessions in yoga, tai chi and other disciplines. "I want this to be a place of learning," said Dr. Mahesh Tipirneni;
• a massage therapy room;
• laser and aesthetics rooms, for skin care and cosmetics;
• a stress management room, with custom-made recliners;
• consultation rooms for longer one-on-one meetings;
• a skin care room, stocked with physician-grade products;
• an acupuncture room.