While U.S. troops were fighting in World War I during the summer of 1918, President Woodrow Wilson underwent treatment for a breathing problem in a hushed episode that foreshadowed worse health troubles.
"The patient is progressing most satisfactorily, so far, and I have good reasons to hope for a most beneficial result," White House physician Cary T. Grayson later wrote to his wife. "It is one secret that has been kept quiet, so far, and I think it is safe."
Wilson had the best care available-and the most discreet. Fast-forward almost 100 years and the commander-in-chief still has a team of doctors at the ready that can diagnose and treat him on the fly, both literally and figuratively.
These days, however, you don't have to win a national election to receive a similar level of care.
Founded in 2007 by Dr. Sean O'Mara, a former White House physician under several administrations, and his brother Brian, Charlottesville, Va.-based Guardian 24/7 is a medical concierge boutique for ultra-high-net-worth clients that has privatized what it describes as "presidential medicine."
Guardian 24/7 doesn't have its own Air Force One, and because it focuses on remote care, it can't duplicate the hands-on care delivered in the White House, but it is similar to the president's medical care in some respects. The firm's staff of doctors, for example, is made up of four former White House physicians who have access to remote technologies that give them the ability to monitor, diagnose and treat a patient in minutes. The firm uses technologies-so-called "telemedicine"-that allow doctors to examine and treat patients who may be thousands of miles away.
Guardian 24/7 physicians say they strive to provide their clients with a similar level of service, and privacy, that was the normal protocol at the White House.
"I used to enter the White House right from Pennsylvania Avenue," explains Dr. Robert Darling, who kept members of the Clinton Administration healthy during Clinton's second term, from 1996 to 2000. "That awesome feeling and being in constant awe has never left me. So we all share the highest level of dedication, service and extreme discretion."
Many of Guardian's patients-they have about 36-have a "ready room" in their homes that is outfitted with gadgetry that sounds like the stuff of science fiction novels. One unit has the look and tamper-proof armor of an ATM machine. That's because it contains up to 200 prescription medications that are dispensed, remotely, by Guardian doctors. The rooms also include a video teleconferencing unit that can zoom in to eyelash level, an EKG monitor and a portable X-ray machine.
On its Web site, Guardian notes that the ready room can "close the gap" between the time a medical emergency strikes, and when a first response team arrives at a client's home-giving the service life-saving capability.