Concierge Medicine Rides the Wave of the Future
03 Aug 2015

Concierge Medicine Rides the Wave of the Future

Concierge medicine allows doctors to charge a flat monthly fee for services. It’s an idea that finally might be catching on throughout the country. Long thought of as a perk for the rich, concierge medicine has in recent years become more appealing for patients across income brackets. More important, perhaps, is that concierge medicine is becoming more attractive to physicians. 

What Exactly Is Concierge Medicine?

Concierge medicine is a private form of practice where doctors charge patients an out-of-pocket retainer fee for full access to their services. Patient loads typically decrease when a physician switches from more traditional fee-per-service practice to concierge medicine. While there are a small number of physicians practicing concierge medicine today — about 5,000 according to the American Academy of Private Physicians — that number has grown in recent years.

More than 20 percent of physicians today say they’re either currently practicing concierge medicine or plan to do so in the future. Often, younger physicians are those who seem more inclined to make the transition.

Fewer Patients Is a Plus

One of the main upsides to concierge practice is the decrease in patients, coupled with an increase in pay. A concierge doctor may have 500 patients, while a doctor in a traditional practice may have 2,000. The doctor with the 500 patients is on retainer and has predictable revenue. The physician also spends more time with the patient and gets to know them. The doctor with thousands of patients may be hard-pressed to form that same type of relationship and is paid only when a patient comes in.

Average retainers vary from practice to practice, but at one of the largest concierge networks, membership fees range from about $1,650 to $1,800 a year. Insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) costs an average of $307 a month (or about $3,600 a year) for a 50-year-old nonsmoker, according to data analyzed by Avalere Health.

Concierge Appeal Is Spreading

Florida-based MDVIP was founded in 2000 and has grown to a national network of more than 800 physicians. It’s a network where the doctors do everything—from teaching healthy eating courses to grocery shopping with patients. Doctors also go on walks with their patients and work with them extensively on things like hypertension and diabetes wellness plans.

Physicians in traditional practices can have between 2,500 and 4,000 patients. MDVIP physicians are capped at 600. An annual membership in MDVIP ranges from $137 to $150 a month. The MDVIP model offers some of concierge medicine’s positives. The minimum appointment time is 30 minutes, compared to the average seven to eight minutes at a traditional practice. It also guarantees same or next-day appointments.

MDVIP sees results. They have a 90 percent renewal rate and a 90 percent reduction in hospital readmission. Patients at MDVIP often benefit from the access to the doctors, including the fact they can text and email their physicians.

Getting Away from “Sick Care”

One of the reasons concierge patients like the system is because it’s not “sick care.” A concierge doctor typically has more time to work on preventative care than a traditional physician. Networks like MDVIP and others have made a point to reemphasize preventative care and frame it in a positive light for their patients.

Overall, concierge medicine is forcing physicians to adapt the different ways they see and treat patients. It means a decrease in the number of patients one sees, and deepens the doctor-patient relationship.

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