There are about 500 doctors across the country that are operating concierge practices. Just what is a “concierge” doctor? It’s when the patient pays an annual fee anywhere from $600 to $5000 per individual for special service. One special service could be the doctor being accessible through cell phone or email at any time. You could have same day or next day appointments without waiting time, unhurried visits, a comprehensive physical, a wellness plan and treatment that the doctor deems necessary. The doctor would offer preventive care such as life style advice and follow up phone calls. In order to achieve this, doctors reduce the number of patients that they see a day which allows them to spend extra time and attention with the concierge patients. Appointments can be up to an hour long. The patients can have last minutes appointments, prescriptions and answers to medical questions.
So what’s being said about all this? The people who are for it say it meets the consumer demands. It allows physicians to cut down from the 25-35 patients per day to a more manageable number. It allows physicians to provide treatment they deem necessary and it improves the quality of care. Patients feel less like just a number and are aware that they are treated more like a person. The patients feel the special treatment is well worth the extra money that they pay. Some concierge doctors even make house calls! The annual fee from each of their patients supplements their practice which covers their costs and they earn a fair salary.
There are concerns that this type of medical care would cause a two-tiered health system. The wealthy would get first class treatment and all the privileges. The people who couldn’t afford the concierge would find a limited number of physicians to treat them. It would also burden the middle and lower class with higher insurance costs. Some physician’s are split down the middle. They feel they can’t abandon patients who can’t pay the additional fee, yet the steady income, the lesser amount of patients and preventative care is a draw.
There is yet another option that’s occurring. It’s called hybrid practice. Physician’s with this type of practice accept about a dozen patients from their practice who choose the concierge option. The other patients still see the doctor as they always have. The concierge get a special contact number with special privileges. These concierge patients won’t get the same quality of care as the doctor who sees only concierge patients but they will get more individual care than the remaining patients in the doctor’s practice. The doctor is caring for the needs of two classes of patients though and still has a large patient load.
So what does this mean to you? Well, the practice of concierge isn’t wide spread as of yet. However if your doctor would change his practice to concierge and you don’t want to join, here’s his obligations to you. He is still required to treat you until you find another doctor. He also has to transfer, for free, your records to your new doctor. So be aware of your rights and your choices.
By Linda Lee Ruzicka
Linda Lee Ruzicka lives in the mountains of Western PA , happily married and with her 8 cats and three dogs. She has been published in Twilight Times, Dark Krypt, Fables, Writing Village, June Cotner anthology, The Grit, Reminisce , the book, Haunted Encounters: Friends and Family. She also does freelance work for Beyond and Healthcarejobsite. You can read more of her blogs on Healthcarejobsite blog.