Like many others who pursue the medical profession, Nathalie Majorek became a doctor because she wanted to help people. The concepts of listening, corresponding, creating comprehensive histories, and focusing on a patient's needs were ingrained early in her career.
But over time, the bureaucratic duties of her Beverly practice — billing, referrals, compliance, regulations, the endless back-and-forth with insurance companies — became more burdensome.
"The distance between myself and patients grew bigger and bigger and bigger," said Majorek, 44.
So after nearly 15 years, she sold her internal medicine practice at the Cummings Center, the Majorek Medical Group, in hopes of finding another avenue of influence.
She earned a master’s in business administration from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management before cofounding MDCapsule, a start-up that provides a secure Internet platform for users to connect and collaborate with their physicians with the goal of taking ownership of their medical care.
"This is care tailored to the patient, and not the patient tailoring to the care," said Majorek, who helped launch the MDCapsule start-up in June 2012 and serves as its chief executive officer.
The company's platform creates an online health community. Doctors invite their patients to join; registered patients have access to a dashboard where they can correspond with their physicians; receive important reminders and health tips; upload their own health journals; and even make appointments. Doctors, in turn, can view patient charts, send in prescriptions, communicate with the patient's other physicians, and offer plans and advice.
"It's a nice 'physician-approved' way to distribute information," said Dr. Andrea Chisholm, a gynecologist in Salem.
She’s been using MDCapsule since it was first offered through a pilot program in the spring, Chisholm said, and about 100 of her patients are actively engaged. She sends out appointment and health reminders, posts occasional anecdotes, and imports health information, papers, and news to her online library. One great benefit, she said, is that she and her patients can exchange messages privately and discreetly — without having to play phone tag.
"It sets up a dynamic that you're going into a virtual office," Chisholm said. "The piece that I enjoy so much is it lets me extend my presence."
Majorek described her company's site as "a mix of Facebook and LinkedIn, with a medical twist. We want to provide both the doctors and the patients with a voice."
Eventually, as the network grows, patients will be able to sign up on their own and then search for their doctors, Majorek said. She also hopes to incorporate features allowing patients to upload daily measurements, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, or weight, through the use of sensory devices.
The platform was launched this month in various offices across the country. Medical practitioners — from obstetricians to gynecologists to psychologists — are being recruited to join, Majorek said.
When it comes to medicine, she said, she "can't remember wanting to do anything else," and likened herself to the early 1990s TV character Doogie Howser because she became a doctor at the young age of 23, after studying at McGill University in Montreal and the University of Arizona.
By the time she sold her practice two years ago, Majorek said, she found that about 70 percent of her time was spent on administrative duties.
"I'm a doctor; I'll always be a doctor," she said. "I miss my patients. I miss them terribly."
Recent news reports suggest that she's not alone: A study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that US physicians suffer more "burnout" than other American workers, with 45 percent citing a loss of enthusiasm, feelings of cynicism, or a low sense of personal accomplishment. And according to a lifestyle report published in March by Medscape, an online resource for health professionals, the top causes of burnout are too many bureaucratic tasks, and too many hours spent at work.
In going forward, the medical profession has to move away from standardized care, Majorek said, toward a more collaborative approach: "We have to reestablish the bond between doctors and their patients."