By Elizabeth Krystyn, Founding Partner
Marcus Welby, MD was a show that portrayed the relationship between patient and doctor as akin to visiting a family friend or a trusted advisor. Payments to physicians could be made over time, in exchange for baked goods, or as wagers in card games. In the ’80s, medicine became business. Providers were paid based on the number of patients assigned to their practice. Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) at their best stressed preventive care; at their worst, spread too many patients over too few providers. The industry added PPOs, POSs, EOPs, HDHPs, HSAs and physician visits via Skype.
Welcome to Concierge Medicine
This model of patient service has been in existence for as long as the practice of medicine itself. Concierge practitioners charge client patients monthly fees or yearly retainers ranging from $1,500 to $3,000-plus. With these fees come more thorough examinations, simplified scheduling, weekend and evening access, and coordination of all the specialties involved in the individual’s care.
Concierge Medicine Appears to Improve Patient Results
Based on a recent study by a private research firm, commercially insured patients who used concierge services experienced 61 percent fewer hospitalizations. Physicians also claimed their patients experienced better success con-trolling blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol. A pending study by the American Academy of Private Physicians suggests overall improvements in patient health are attributable to the 24/7 access offered in a concierge program.
Not Everyone is Convinced that Concierge Medicine is Beneficial
Some question the ethics. Accusations of double dipping—collecting insurance reimbursement and patient fees—cast doubt over the true objective. Others raise concerns of a stratification of health services: quality healthcare for those who can afford it and bare-bones treatment for everyone else.
Demand is High
According to the Society of Innovative Medical Practice Design, a society of concierge physicians, more than 5,000 doctors practice concierge medicine in the United States, with a concentration of practices in Florida and Washington. Certainly, this indicates demand is being filled at a level of personal and financial satisfaction that makes the model viable for physicians. Contrary to the elitist stigma, patients taking advantage of concierge medicine include retired teachers, government workers and small-business owners.
In the TV series, Dr. Welby was a compassionate physician. It seems patients today long for that comfort and dedication from their doctors. Spending an hour in a waiting room only to have seven minutes with your doctor seems a far cry from the idealized version of medicine. To find a concierge physician, contact the American Academy of Private Physicians (www.aapp.org).