Recall the last time you went to your doctor’s office: You likely spent some unexpected extra time in the waiting room. You probably also even waited a few weeks for an appointment, especially if you were seeing a new primary care provider. Thankfully, the healthcare space is changing, and it’s largely in thanks to concierge medicine.
According to a survey by Merritt Hawkins, individuals wait an average of 18 minutes upon arriving at their doctor’s office. That’s after usually waiting about 24 days to see a new doctor. With almost all areas of our lives becoming on-demand, from food delivery to cleaning services, it’s no surprise that accessibility is beginning to reach the medical space as well. Concierge medicine is paving the way for this evolved healthcare landscape.
What is Concierge Medicine?
With concierge medicine, patients receive personalized, accessible care. Patients pay an annual fee, and in exchange, a primary care physical agrees to offer increased attention. While costs range, a study by the American Academy found the average price for concierge medicine care is typically between $77 and $183 per month. This fee opens the door for perks, including same-day appointments, longer exam times, medication home delivery, and 24/7 communication with your physician. As concierge medicine solves most of the pain points of the traditional healthcare experience, it’s on the rise.
The Rise of Concierge Medicine
The key reason why a vast majority of physicians are moving towards concierge medicine is that it allows them to deliver outstanding care to patients. A report from the University of Wisconsin found that nearly half of primary physicians today devote less than 15 minutes to each patient visit, with the typical patients having about 1.6 visits per year. Conversely, concierge medicine physicians spend about 35 minutes on each visit, with patients maintaining an average of four visits per year. Traditional doctors have thousands of patients at any given time – concierge medicine doctors have only hundreds.
Commitment to High Quality Care
Concierge medicine allows doctors to maintain greater bandwidth, which translates to their level of care. With more time and resources, they can genuinely get to know their patients and provide attention at all times. They can work not only to treat ailments but also to effectively prevent them. Jeffrey Friedman M.D., director of Medicine Community Health Associates and a member of MDVIP, summarizes this best, “Having a deep understanding of my patients, from their medical history, to how things need to be explained to each one, so they understand what they need to do and why means I have to put in the time and effort. The only way I’m able to deliver the highest quality medical care is by being a concierge physician.”
Benefits of Concierge Medicine
Round-the-Clock Doctor Accessibility
With concierge medicine, you can maintain a constant stream of communication with your primary care physician. It’s standard for concierge medicine patients to contact their doctor via call, text, email, and even Skype and FaceTime. Additionally, most concierge doctors guarantee same-day or next-day appointments. Consistent contact allows patients to have an answer to their medical questions at any time – even after traditional business hours. Say you’re sick or need a prescription refill. Concierge medicine care lets you skip the wait, office time, and copay.
Longer and more frequent appointments provide an opportunity for concierge doctors to know you on a deeply personal level. Therefore, they can obtain more information about your daily habits and issues that might have an impact on your overall health.
With more time for patient communication and attention, concierge doctors can provide quicker results. For example, internists can order tests, read results, and arrange biopsy in a matter of days, rather than a matter of weeks. With specialized care, concierge medicine not only provides treatment, but it also relieves much of the anxieties surrounding medical issues.
Preventive, Not Reactive Solutions
Since concierge doctors have regular communication and face time with patients as well as more time, they can heavily emphasize preventive care. Traditionally, physicians address issues affecting a patient at one point in time and prescribe a quick solution, often ignoring previous events that compounded to create the problem. Conversely, concierge doctors look at the whole patient, analyzing their health history upon each visit. In turn, concierge doctors can identify and diagnose issues as they are arising, instead of after they have already escalated.
Management of All Aspects of Care
Concierge medicine takes a complete look at the patient. Familiarized with your entire medical history, concierge doctors can not only make intuitive connections, but they can also recommend specialists as needed. Think of your concierge medicine physician as a source that both stores and processes your medical data. When they can’t provide you a specific treatment, they can point you in the direction of one who can. They can also quickly communicate the information needed to do so.
Tips for Making the Switch
With any innovation, there are pros and cons. Since your relationship with your concierge medicine physician is vital, you will need to explore a bit to find the perfect fit. Here are some tips for getting concierge medicine right:
1. Find the Right Doctor
Begin with the American Academy of Private Physicians, a search tool that allows you to locate concierge doctors by state. You can also find a doctor through a concierge physician network, like MDVIP. Doctors who are a part of concierge medicine systems typically charge a flat fee per year and maintain a strict cap on the number of patients their practices can see. While traveling, patients can also visit the nearest doctor affiliated with said network.
2. Make a House Call
While the majority of the time, you will communicate with your doctor remotely, it’s essential you have a feel for the environment that their practice creates. Before you commit, visit the doctor’s office. Ask relevant questions like how long appointments are, what services are included, and how responsive the physicians are. Keep in mind that as concierge medicine practices limit their patients, you may end up on a waitlist for your top choices.
3. Check Your Insurance
Health care coverage for concierge medicine care varies on a state by state and practice by practice basis. Your health policy may offer procedures that your annual concierge fee may not cover. You may have to pay out of pocket for membership fees; however, it may be possible to use funds from a flexible spending account or health savings account to cover these costs.
The Final Consensus
If you’re looking for high-quality doctors, personalized care, and on-demand medical advice, concierge medicine is right for you. As Charles Dinerstein, vascular surgeon and senior medical fellow at the consumer advocacy organization the American Council on Science and Health puts it, “Concierge medicine, like many other things we purchase, is an experience as much as it’s care — you have a much more personalized, intimate encounter with your concierge doctor.”
Concierge medicine is not limited to healthcare practices. There are a number of companies making wellness more accessible by applying the concierge model to individual services. From IV treatment to therapy, there’s an on-demand solution for almost any wellness service.
The offerings are essentially endless. Feeling your best has truly never been easier!