Concierge medicine, sometimes referred to as “membership medicine”, appears to be on an upward trend as both patients and physicians are discovering the benefits of its model and services. As physicians are able to decrease their patient load and not feel rushed with visits, patients are able to see their doctor when and where they want. They can avoid waiting rooms and have longer, uninterrupted visits with their doctor. In addition, patients often have increased access to their doctor afterwards through remote telemedicine services, such as phone or email correspondence.
Twenty years ago, these services could have cost thousands of dollars per month. As concierge medicine as evolved, though, and other models have been created, the services have become more affordable, allowing the middle class, and even those uninsured, to take advantage of such boutique-like practices.
Before you enroll as a concierge patient, though, it is important to learn how the different models function. Keep in mind, every physician can create their own practice model, taking from the different models, so it is more important to know the specific details of the physician’s practice you wish to contract with than it is to assume they follow the practice structure outlined below. Therefore, at the end of this blog, I will list questions you should ask each physician before potentially becoming a patient of their concierge practice.
With concierge medicine, doctors charge an annual, or monthly, fee to patients and in return, patients receive unparalleled and unrestricted care, which may include same-day appointments, house-calls, and telemedicine services (e.g. video visits, phone calls, email correspondence). Although some concierge physicians are cash-pay only, many still accept insurance.
Direct-Primary Care (DPC)
At its core, direct primary care (DPC) systems are similar to concierge medicine in that physicians charge a monthly fee and see less patients, allowing them to spend more time with each one. Unlike concierge medicine, though, DPC physicians do not accept insurance, and their monthly fees tend to be significantly lower than that of a concierge practice.
Physicians that practice under a hybrid model have some patients enrolled in a concierge practice while their remaining patients receive treatment under their customary practice model.
The Future of “Concierge” Medicine
As concierge medicine continues to evolve and more specialists look to integrate concierge services into their practice, variations in practice structures will also continue to expand. Physicians, most notably specialists, will need to pick and choose different aspects of each practice model to incorporate into their own, based on their patient population and the needs of the practice.
With advances in technology, I believe concierge medicine and telemedicine are only going to continue to become more appealing and popular to both patients and physicians. Whether it is out of convenience (i.e. busy working professionals) or necessity (i.e. elderly patients), more and more people are taking advantage of these services, which, in my opinion, are hard to put a price tag on.
Things to Consider Before Joining a Concierge Practice
When looking for a concierge physician, make sure you get the answers to the following questions, so you know how the doctor structures his/her practice, and feel free to contact your own insurance company to learn what services may be covered under your individual or family insurance plan.
How much is the annual/monthly fee?
What does the monthly fee cover? What services are extra?
What remote or telemedicine services do you provide? Are these covered under the retainer fee?
Do you accept insurance and, if so, what services are billed to my insurance company?
DISCLAIMER: The above information is meant for educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Please contact the doctor, or your own healthcare professional, should you have questions or concerns related to your health.
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