Virginnia Schock seemed headed for a health crisis. She was 64 years old, had poorly controlled diabetes, a wound on her foot and a cast on her broken wrist. She didn’t drive, so getting to the people who could tend to her ailments was complicated and expensive. She had stopped taking her diabetes pills months before and was reluctant to use insulin; she was afraid of needles and was worried that a friend’s son, a drug addict, might use her syringes to inject them.
She was, however, able to make a phone call. And one day in October, in the offices of Iora Primary Care in Seattle, Dr. Carroll Haymon and Lisa Barrow, a “health coach,” huddled around a speakerphone, talking to her. Ms. Schock had recently become a patient of the practice, and the three discussed her problems — personal, financial, logistical — for nearly 45 minutes. At one point, Dr. Haymon asked why Ms. Schock had stopped taking her diabetes medication. The pills, Ms. Schock said, were too big, and they stuck in her throat.