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Monday, Aug 15, 2022

Charting Medical Course

After his retirment last year, Dr. Herbert Rappaport got telephone calls from two friends who told him they had cancer. Each had seen a myriad of specialists who offered a variety of opinions. They were scared and confused. They wanted his advice.

An oncologist and internist, Rappaport had worked with patients who had cancer and other life-threatening diseases for 47 years. He knew his friends’ confusion was common. So he thought about it for a while, and in January he began consulting as a patient advocate, working out of his home in Brentwood.

But he’s not typical. Most patient advocates deal with insurance and legal issues. Rappaport doesn’t do that. Instead, he uses his medical expertise to help patients navigate the medical process and evaluate treatment options.

For each of only five or six clients at a time, Rappaport makes himself available 24 hours a day by phone or e-mail. He talks with a patient’s various doctors to help determine the best treatment plan and personally examines all test results, including biopsies, MRI’s and X-rays.

Rappaport said doctors might feel threatened if they believe he is encroaching on their territory, but it’s not his intention to do that.

“I’m not in competition with them, I’m actually making their job easier,” he said. “They don’t have to get a call at 10 o’clock at night, because that’s my business.”

His service doesn’t come cheap. He charges $500 per hour and a minimum of 20 hours.

Georgina Rothenberg’s 44-year-old son, Richard, had a heart attack earlier this year. She said Rappaport’s expertise justified the high rates.

“Sometimes you’re so overwhelmed by how you feel, you don’t hear everything the doctors say,” she said. “It’s really helpful to have someone who can simplify everything for you.”

Dr. Marcy Zwelling, of private practice Choice Care in Los Alamitos, thinks services like Rappaport’s could even help patients save money in particular cases.

“The patient has his care streamlined and focused … so there would be less redundancy in testing,” Zwelling said. “In the end, he’s saving the patient a ton of money.”


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