Familiar with the term concierge medicine? I wasn't until two of our regular family doctors transformed their practices using the approach. We were forced into learning about it quickly and assess whether this type of practice could work for our family. Here is what I found out about how this approach to medicine works.
A small but growing number of doctors are making the switch to a practice incorporating the concierge method of practicing medicine in the hopes of offering more-personalized patient care. Patients may look to concierge care because they seek a doctor who is more available and will actively manage a serious illness or serve as an advocate within the system. Some consider the convenience of it a huge plus and need help with prevention and wellness that many practices build into their practices.
Others say it is a solution to the concerns regarding the Affordable Care Act pulling more patients into the health care system resulting in more-crowded waiting rooms and longer waits to get an appointment to see a doctor. But, whatever the reason, it is something that is gaining traction in the United States. Let's take a closer look and see if it may be something for you to consider.
CONCIERGE MEDICINE: BENEFITS AND COSTS
- Much more time spent with the patient at the appointment
- An especially thorough yearly exam
- Access to your doctor 24 hours a day and same day appointments
- Better patient/doctor ratio which equates to earlier appointment scheduling and less time in the waiting room
- More individualized care
- Wellness programs and classes for free that emphasize prevention
- More job satisfaction for the doctor as he or she is able to give the time needed to get the patient better
Some call the concierge model "elitist" with those only "in the club" and able to pay the fee are allowed to be seen, but many doctors find they practice medicine more effectively. It also may attract more talented individuals to the field of medicine giving more job satisfaction. In addition, many doctors do keep space for lower income patients in their practices that they will see as well without the fee.
Those health benefits from seeing a doctor in a concierge practice also can benefit your life in other ways, too. Joining a practice using concierge medicine could enhance your life in these ways:
HOW CONCIERGE MEDICINE CAN ENHANCE YOUR LIFE
- Less time waiting at the doctor means less time away from your job or family or whatever else you want to be doing.
- You may solve your health complaint a lot faster and a lot easier as the doctor has more time to spend to fit the puzzle pieces of your symptoms together.
- You may be alerted to a small health issue before it becomes a bigger health issue because a thorough yearly exam is included in the fee.
- You get an answer to your health complaint earlier because the doctor may be able to schedule diagnostic tests faster and easier.
- It could be life saving as you have access to your doctor 24 hours a day, which could greatly assist in an emergency issue.
- You have the comfort of dealing with one person and establishing a deeper rapport and relationship with your medical team.
If you are interested in finding and comparing various concierge practices in your area, this tool may help or this one as well. Then, when you have a few names you are interested in investigating and can possibly afford, you should interview the practice before agreeing to any fees. After all, your health (and those who monitor and treat it) is one of the biggest investments you can make!
HOW TO FIND THE BEST POTENTIAL CONCIERGE MEDICAL PRACTICE FOR YOU
Dig deeper. Here are some questions to ask the potential practice:
- What is the ratio of doctor to patient?
- How does that ratio equate to how long a wait time to get an appointment and for waiting room time?
- Are you able to schedule required testing sooner?
- What is the average length of an appointment?
- Do you offer free classes or wellness programs?
- What services are included in your fees?
- What other doctors do you refer to regularly and can you schedule an appointment with him or her sooner if needed?
- Do you have digital record keeping for easier sharing of information among the medical team?
- Does the group specialize in any form of medicine?
- What hospital affiliations do your team members have?
- What are the costs?
- How do you handle billing and insurance?
- If your practice is not a good fit, what kind of fee reimbursement do you offer?
- Why should I come to your practice and not another one?
- Are there any other benefits you can tell me about?
Check your insurance. Your health policy may cover procedures that the concierge contract does not such as laboratory tests and diagnostic screenings.
Compare with others. Create a chart with the various attributes, costs and services you are seeking to easily compare the practices.
We ultimately did not join the concierge practices, but it is something I will revisit periodically in the future and will be sure to investigate the plans thoroughly to get the right fit. But, I would love to hear - has anyone used this type of doctor before? If so, what has been your experience? If not, what do you think of this new movement in the practice of medicine? Are you for it or against the idea?
FOR MORE ON THE TOPIC . . .
- Meet this medical doctor that is a big believer in prevention and wellness.
- Sit back and watch these individuals spread inspiration and hope in the field of medicine and wellness.