The shortage of physicians has become a major concern in the United States and the rest of the world. Due to this shortage, physician practices have faced changes when it comes to the physician reimbursement environment. Many physicians are therefore looking for alternative practice models which would suit their medical practice.
The concierge medicine model has become more prominent around the globe as many physicians are enrolling in the model. While many physicians find medical value-based reimbursement and medical payment reform challenging, the new concierge medicine model may give a solution to challenges many hospitals and physicians face today.
What is the concierge medicine model?
In the world of medicine, the concierge medicine model refers to more personalized and convenient medical services with a different financial relationship between the physician and the patient. The concierge medicine model is also referred to as membership or retainer medicine. In this model, patients pay an annual fee to an individual physician for enhancement of medical services.
Below are some characteristics of concierge medicine model that makes it different from traditional practices:
- Insurance- It is estimated that about 75% of concierge physicians have embraced insurance while the remaining still uses cash-only services. In this practice physicians contract with patients in place of their insurance.
- Payment- In this model, patients pay a fixed amount of membership fee in advance so as to receive medical services when they are in need.
- Physician access- Due to decrease in patient’s population, concierge physician can assure same day or next day appointment to patients. Concierge doctor also operate 24 hour a day with reduced examination times
- Patient panel- Compared to traditional practices, concierge doctors have about 90% fewer patients. This means that concierge physicians will have a total of 500-1000 patients.
- Additional services- It is well known that concierge physicians offer additional perks or incentives such as high-level annual examinations, house calls, emergency room visits and nutritional counseling
Business models in concierge practices
According to recent survey, more that 80% of concierge practices are categorized as either hybrid, fee-for-service extra care (FFEC) or Fee-for-service care (FFC). In hybrid business model, your physician may give you two choices which include:
- Paying a retainer for certain enhanced medical services which are not a part of the annual concierge package by use of insurance.
- Opting out of your enhanced services so that all the practice bills can be covered by your insurer
In FFC business model, all patients pay a retainer to take care of most services provided by the physician in the office. In this model, you will incur extra charges for other services that fall out of your annual retainer package. In this case, the patients pay extra cash for all additional services.
In FFEC business model, all patients pay for the annual retainer, but the physician charges for any additional medical services that fall out of the retainer. In this model the patients are charged from the insurance plan.
In all the above business models, the physician practice trends determine what medical services are included in your concierge package. The physician also decides whether the patient has to pay by use of credit card or cash. The concierge practices also decide on the retainer payments frequency and the availability of discounted medical services.
Is Concierge medicine model right for you?
In the past, concierge medicine model was exclusive for rich patients who could afford enough cash to access top medical physicians. Now that things have changed in today’s medicine, many people have shifted to concierge medicine.
For now, even the middle income, Medicaid and Medicare patients can benefit from concierge services due to low cost and personalized medical experience. The membership fee plus other charges absent in the retainer are relatively cheap compared to traditional services. This gives an advantage to people who suffer from chronic diseases as they can access their doctors often at a reduced cost.
According to a survey conducted recently, people aged 50 years and above make up a big share of patients enrolling in most concierge services. This being the case, these services tend to be concentrated in areas with high population of older people.
Reasons you should consider concierge medicine
Compared to other alternative practice models, concierge model is considered the best for the following reasons:
- You don’t rely much on insurance-Shifting into retainer-based method, even while bailing your insurer for your medical services, has drastically decreased patient’s reliance on insurance. This has therefore ensured there is no headache while claiming payment from third parties.
- Physicians spend more time with patients-According to recent research, concierge physicians attend to an average of 6 to 8 patients a day. This becomes very convenient when compared to conventional physicians who attend to about 20-24 patients a day. In addition, more than 72% concierge physicians were seen to spend 30 to 60 minutes with each patient compared to their counterparts who spend 15 to 30 minutes with each patient.
- Preventive care focus-Concierge practices usually allow physicians to focus on preventive care and lifestyle plans for their patients. The retainer paid is enough to cover all proactive services which are excluded in insurance plans. Many insurance companies insist that the doctor should concentrate on the patient wellness only.
Other benefits of concierge medicine practice are:
- Physician job satisfaction due to high pay and less load of work
- Decrease in number of staff member since the model rely less on insurance
- Decreased overhead expenses
- Decreased time on admin duties
The bottom line
If you are a physician looking for the best medical practice model, concierge medicine model is the right choice for you. With the retainer-based system, you will be allowed you to give preventive care to your patients and have much time with them as well. As discussed above on the benefits of this model, patients are going to get the best at a low cost.
You should first evaluate the disadvantages and advantages of this model compared to other medical models to ensure that you are on the right foot.