Responsive Pediatrician at Sutter East Bay on Milvia in Berkeley?

Hi Parents!  We have a 5.5 year old and a 1.5 year old and have been seeing Dr. Lisa Swearingen in the Sutter East Bay Medical group at 2500 Milvia Street in Berkeley since our oldest was born.  In general, we've had an OK experience: she refers us to specialists when we ask, provides competent advice on simple medical issues, and despite some trouble scheduling with her unless booking WAY in advance, we can generally have our kids seen by someone in her office when needed with short notice (i.e. day of or next day) when sick. 

Where our experience with Dr. Swearingen breaks down is in her responsiveness to questions and concerns when we try to contact her outside of appointment times.  There have been numerous instances over the years where we have messaged her or her team via the online portal, which have gone completely unanswered and ignored.  It's hard to know if this is an issue office-wide or just with Dr. Swearingen and her medical assistant not replying to messages.  For comparison, my husband and I receive care from multiple Sutter East Bay Physicians in the office (primary care and OBGYN) and always receive prompt replies to our questions/concerns. And for reference, we do not inundate her with questions.  At most we message her with questions a couple times a year.

We would ideally like to keep our care at the same facility but are wondering if there are other Pediatricians in this office who are more responsive to the online messaging portal?  What has your experience been with Dr. Swearingen or her colleagues in the practice? 

Most appreciative for any feedback or experiences! Thanks in advance!    

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I think you can message any pediatrician in that doctor's group and they will respond. She's our primary pediatrician but I've messaged plenty of other folks in the group and they've responded within one day. 

We're at the same practice and have had positive experiences with Dr. Neelufar Ghaderi! 

I do not see a pediatrician at Milvia but am a provider in SEBMF. I wanted to give you a glimpse into the day of a pediatrician (not making excuses). Dr Swearingen probably sees 20-25 patients a day and gets over 50 messages/refill requests a day. I spend 2-3 hours every night (unpaid time) going through patient calls/messages and closing charts. This includes days off and weekends and vacations. I would raise your concerns with Sutter directly as this is a system issue. Physicians have been asking for help answering messages (like a PA or RN) for years. I would also ask Dr Swearingen why she is not answering messages and how to contact her if there is a more urgent matter.

I have found that the more dedicated, caring providers are spending time with patients during the day and, unless, they are willing to spend all their free time answering messages and charting they can't get them done. That's why the burnout rate is so high among women physicians (about 75% nationally). Given her lead time to book an appointment, it sounds like she has a full practice, which results in even more messages. 

You also may consider changing to a practice like East Bay Pediatrics where providers are not under the same expectations in terms of patient volume and have better support (MA, RN etc)


We go to Dr Kaplan at that practice, and she has always been very responsive over messaging. I usually get a same day response, and I don’t think I’ve ever had one go unanswered. We really like her as a pediatrician as well. 

My kids see Dr Lackman in the same practice. She’s wonderful but hard to see without booking far in advance. She is responsive on the app (or her medical staff is). She’s also called me next day a couple times when I’ve spoken with an advice nurse. So I’d say your experience in that practice is pretty different than mine. She is exclusively at Albany now. Worth the migration for me, as I generally prefer going to Milvia. 

I have not had this issue - have both a 4 y/o and a 3 month old who are patients with Dr. Lackman and Dr. Ghaderi respectively. While sometimes my child’s own pediatrician/care team doesn’t reply, I always get a reply from whoever is “on call” within 24-48 hours. No idea why you might be having a different experience. Maybe try calling the office or nurse advice line and asking for a call back? I’ve only had to do that once (for an urgent concern) and don’t find it as convenient as MHO - but maybe worth trying.

Our Sutter Health doctor always responds to messages pretty immediately. However, we find it's impossible to see our Pediatrician when our child is sick or when we have an issue we would like addressed lets say within a week- visits always have to be scheduled sooo far in advance and we don't always want to see the doctors who happen to be available for sick kids- we just haven't has as good of experiences with some of them. So, we have started using One Medical for Pediatrics, and they have a new Pediatrician on University. We seem to always be able to get in with a Pediatrician within a 20 minute drive immediately (I've made sick appointments in the middle of the night on the app for 9AM the next day), and they are super responsive to messages and virtual visits. Their app lets you submit prescription requests too. We have found having both to be a nice cadence for us (go to Sutter for well visits and One Medical for sick visits), but have considered switching to One Medical full time due to the unavailability of Pediatricians generally at Sutter. One other thing is that One Medical really prides itself and its business model on timely visits, so we are always seem on time. The last time we had a visit at Sutter we waited 45 minutes past our time in the waiting room. 

We have Dr. Kaplan at that same office. This Monday morning she responded to my message in 3 minutes (it was not an emergency at all). She's not always that fast but I'm pretty sure I always get a same-day response. She's also very nice and always takes the time to address our concerns during appointments. Highly recommended. 

We see Dr. Lackman in the same group (although she works out of the Albany location - 500 San Pablo, which is more convenient for us). I've only messaged their team once (I have a 2 year old) when our son got pink eye and Dr. Lackman responded within 12 hours: she sent advice on how to monitor the situation and described under what circumstances we should schedule time to come in, and automatically sent a prescription to the pharmacy. I know lots of families in Albany who go to Dr. Lackman who have had good experiences with her being responsive via messages. She was also very patient with us throughout the newborn phase when we would have a long list of questions, some of which looking back was less medical and more us being inexperienced and asking for advice on how to take care of a newborn :)

We see Dr. Ghaderi at Sutter Pediatrics with both of our little ones (2.5 y and 1 month) and she's been good about responding to messages sent over the portal. We also have seen Dr. Lackman at the same practice who is also great, but she splits her time between the Berkeley and the Albany locations, and is pretty popular so booking appointments with her is more difficult. 

Sorry to hear about this! Our child has been to Dr. Swearingen for about 1.5 years also and we have not had this issue. Fortunately she, or the covering pediatrician, usually responds to our questions in the messaging tool within 24 hours or faster. We've interacted with a few pediatricians in the group and all were great. Had good experiences with Dr. Ghaderi at the Milvia location, Dr. Singer in Brentwood, and Dr. Lackman in Albany. 

Context for those who don't use the Sutter MyHealth app - the messaging tool is for "simple medical questions that don't require an immediate response." 

Hello! We have been with Dr. Kaplan at Sutter in the Milvia office for 14 months (since birth) and love her. She’s super responsive on the app, often answering early in the morning the day after we send a question. She answers questions with compassion and helpful tips/resources, and hasn’t made me feel dumb for asking nervous first-time parent questions. 

After my son was born, we were in the hospital for long enough that we saw almost every pediatrician in the practice and chose Dr. Kaplan for her personality and because she was taking new patients. I’ve heard Dr. Swearingen is extremely in demand so maybe she’s just overwhelmed with patients?

Hi, we used to be in the Sutter East Bay Medical Group. Another pediatrician in that group who provided great care and was responsive to our questions was Margery Lackman. My child needed access to specialists Dr. Lackman was responsive to our requests and questions through the care portal. We were not always able to see the pediatricians we preferred in that medical group on short notice, and found similarly that you have to schedule way in advance.

We see Dr Ghaderi in the same office, and always get a quick response to messages. We like her and would recommend her if you want to try someone else. If you never receive responses, I wonder if there's something technically wrong in the system? I think there's an option through the portal to contact technical support, or you could ask at an appointment if they see the messages.