Is concierge medicine right for you?
Dr. Susan Locke: ObamaCare is actually fueling the demand for concierge medicine . . .
The shortage of physicians caused by the Affordable Care Act is driving a significant change in primary care practices. There is a growing shortage of primary care physicians (PCPs), and experts say the shortage will grow.
As a result, patients endure longer waits for appointments. And with declining reimbursements, PCPs will be forced to see more patients per day, hence shorter, more hurried appointments. Many PCPs are already overwhelmed. The average PCP manages 2,500 patients. Patients often experience service that is highly impersonal with delays in scheduling appointments, less face-to-face time with the doctor, and long waits in crowded waiting rooms.
If you want to have a personal physician see you for all your health care needs, you will need to pay for the privilege. With a concierge medicine practice, a physician is often seeing less than 10 patients a day, providing direct patient care, and continuing to have meaningful personal relationships with patients.
Concierge medicine’s popularity may also be driven by primary care physicians themselves. Those who want to continue to have a personal relationship with their patients will find it very difficult to be satisfied with the typical high-volume practice.
Concierge medical practices have emerged as an alternative medical practice model. Patients pay a monthly or annual “membership” fee for enhanced services which include: longer appointment times in an unhurried environment; 24/7 access directly to your personal physician by telephone, email or cell phone (after hours); no waiting and same-day appointments; expedited access to top specialists; and home visits.
Concierge care promises a return to more personalized care. Most concierge practices are limited to a few hundred patients. This allows the physician the time to deliver a higher level of personal attention. Most practices will bill insurance for services that are typically covered by a patient’s insurance.
Good candidates for a concierge medical practice include: older patients with complex medical problems or chronic ailments that require a “quarterback” to coordinate the care of multiple specialists; busy executives and professionals who value easy access to a physician when they require attention; patients who place a premium on prevention; patients who frequently travel away from home and value access to their own physician 24/7; and patients with a fair amount of anxiety about their health.
In 2012, there were about 4,400 concierge physicians. There are geographic concentrations of practices and other places where there are no concierge practices. To see the possibilities in your area, Google “concierge medicine” plus your city and state. This should reveal local opportunities for care.
When considering a concierge medical practice, keep these pointers in mind: Schedule a “meet and greet” with the physician; ask about the physician’s vacation coverage; find out who covers for the physician; ask if your physician would take care of you if you were hospitalized; meet the office staff. Make sure you are comfortable with them, and inquire about the fees. Fees may be as low as $1,000 per year or as high as $10,000 per year.
Concierge practices are not for everyone. However, they can offer peace of mind and an alternative for patients who desire more attentive and personalized care. After all, getting medical care should not feel like a struggle.
SUSAN LOCKE, MD, is Healthnetwork Foundation’s medical director.
HEALTHNETWORK is a Legatus membership benefit, a healthcare “concierge service” that provides members and their families access to some of the most respected hospitals in the world. What is Healthnetwork Foundation? One Call Starts It All: (866) 968-2467 or (440) 893-0830. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org