Name: Greg Vigna, M.D., JD
Undergraduate: University of the Pacific, Stockton, California
Med school: Tulane School of Medicine, New Orleans
Residency: Baylor College of Medicine, Houston
Physician life care planners can assist plaintiffs or defense lawyers by evaluating the needs of the ill or injured and what their needs will be in the future. It does not require an active clinical practice, is not limited by specialty, and a physician does not have to testify against other physicians regarding care standards.
Greg Vigna, M.D., JD, is a board-certified physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. During Vigna’s residency, he had the opportunity to train at some of the leading hospitals in the country. At these institutions, he learned how to manage the most catastrophic of all traumatic injuries. He is also a member of the California State Bar and the Washington, D.C., Bar.
What do you like most about your role?
What I like is learning about the future impact of the illness or injury and how that will cause further disability so you can predict the medical possibilities or what services the client will need.
As an example, brain injured patients who are dealing with spasticity and are ambulating with a single-point cane or a walker will require further mobility aids. You need to think outside the box and include it in their life care plan.
It requires study in the field of medicine and thinking not only of the patient’s needs in the present but also in the future. Being a physician life care planner is good for doctors who are in their mid-life of practicing medicine and those at the end because they have gained a lot of experience.
What’s the most challenging part?
The need to be flexible, because trials can be pushed and you have to be in a position where you can take off for a day with two weeks’ notice. You have to have reliable coverage in your practice for the patients you have.
What has been surprising about your role?
The surprise was how enjoyable it was. There are good people out there, such as nurse life care planners, who can assist. There are numerous health care professionals who can assist with some of the health care chronologies. Not only do you, as a physician life care planner, have to discuss what a person needs, you also have to do research to determine how much it’s going to cost. These subcontracts are under your control, and there are very skilled people who can assist.
How can physicians become physician life care planners?
It’s a pretty straightforward process. There are courses that can be done online for certification. These consist of modules and books to read. It doesn’t take that long to get certified.
Again, people who are life care planners can be nurses, psychologists and other physicians. As a physician, you will certainly have the background to pass the tests with relative ease. You do have an on-site weekend course where you meet some of the leaders in life care planning. That was very valuable because I could network there and develop my team.
What advice would you give to interested physicians?
I think that once a physician becomes certified, then you need to start going to medical legal conferences and get a booth. You need to start advertising. At the conferences, you can meet physicians and lawyers. Once the word gets out that you can provide this service and have a reliable product, in addition to testifying reasonably well, then the cases will come.
Anything else to add?
It’s very lucrative. Doctors are used to rounding and doing follow-ups to procedures. Being a physician life care planner provides a different income stream. It’s all done virtually. With this job, I don’t have to develop a back office. Everything is provided virtually now. I can do this anywhere that I have a laptop. The team members I have are located in Florida. I live in California and have never met them in person but work very closely with them.