Concierge medicine is a growing trend in the healthcare community, a business model that gives the patient more control over their healthcare and the physician more time to deal with them directly. Simply put, it’s the practice of keeping a medical professional on retainer, usually with an annual or monthly fee, allowing them to address whatever medical needs might arise at any given time. The doctor doesn’t work for the hospital, churning through sixty waiting room attendees before finally giving you fifteen minutes of harried attention. They work for you, and as such, have a vested, personal interest in your health and well-being so that business may continue.
The Downsides of Concierge Medicine
The downside? It’s expensive. Basic healthcare isn’t cheap on its own in the United States, with healthcare premiums for the average family rounding out to over $16,000 a year (KFF.org, 2014), and a concierge doctor’s fees can add anywhere from $1000 to $25,000 a year on top of that (Himmel, 2010). These fees usually cover an annual checkup and ensure quick and effective care, but more intensive procedures will often incur additional fees.
As such, concierge medicine remains a middle to upper class phenomenon. The USA Network TV series Royal Pains satirizes this aspect of the job, portraying down-to-earth doctors often bumping heads with snooty, upper crust clients. This class barrier is a common criticism of the concierge business model. Doctors are in short supply, and with America’s population becoming older and more obese, able physicians dropping poorer clients so that they might cater to the lucrative elite has struck many in the medical profession as morally dubious at best.
The Hybrid Model Solution
It’s a messy situation, but solutions are being proposed. One such method that has gained traction in the past few years has been the “hybrid model” of medicine, wherein doctors can continue to treat their longstanding patients while still offering concierge-style perks to a smaller percentage who want it. The end result is doctors making more money, seeing fewer patients per day, and becoming less stressed as a result. These hybrid programs are still largely experimental, but so far, responses from both patients and caregivers have been positive.
Dr. Cynthia Williams is one such physician who found a hybrid model of medicine to be ideal. “This isn’t a disruptive model,” she wrote. “I continue to take insurance and patients don’t have to look for another provider… I’m not taking on new patients I don’t really have the time to see and can dedicate myself to all the patients I do have while bringing on new patients through normal practice attrition when it makes sense” (Williams, 2015).
None of this should suggest, by the way, that traditional medicine is on the way out. As mentioned before, the extra cost of concierge medicine means it will likely remain an option only for more affluent patients. But if the result is better paid doctors able to take on more reasonable workloads, then we all benefit.
Section One: Cost of Health Insurance (2014). Retrieved on 6/28/15 from http://kff.org/report-section/ehbs-2014-section-one-cost-of-health-insurance/
Himmel, D. (2010). Chicago Health Online. Retrieved on 6/30/2015 from http://chicagohealthonline.com/at-your-service-concierge-medicine/
Williams, C. (2015). Modern Healthcare. Retrieved on 6/30/2015 from http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20150117/MAGAZINE/301179978