Consider Concierge

With millions of newly insured patients beginning to enter the health care system, it is predicted doctors will have less time to spend with patients, waiting rooms will be over-crowded, and delays in getting an appointment should be expected. Based on these circumstances, according to health care experts, there is an anticipated “quiet exodus” of physicians who are considering early retirement, closing their practices to new patients, and hiring physician assistants or registered nurses to routinely see patients. An expected 10% of physicians are also considering transitioning their existing practices to Concierge Medical practices. So what exactly is concierge medicine, and what are the benefits?

  1. Concierge medical patients pay an annual retainer of anywhere between $1,500 – $5,000, which is not covered by insurance carriers, allowing them direct access to their personal physician, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Most concierge medical practices limit their patient base to a few hundred patients, versus a few thousand like traditional practices. There are no busy waiting rooms, and same day appointments or evening/weekend phone calls to address a medical concern are easily accommodated. Consider the benefit: It’s Saturday evening and you’re putting the finishing touches on a beautiful, summer dinner for a few friends. They’ll be arriving at 7pm. You’ve been noticing an unusual bug bite on your arm from gardening earlier in the day, which is painful and continuing to swell. You call your concierge physician’s cell phone. Your physician tells you exactly what should be done to treat the bite and painful swelling, as well as potential symptoms to look out for. Your dinner party is a hit, and you have avoided spending Saturday night in the Emergency Room. Your physician checks on you later in the evening to ensure that the bite is getting better.
  2. Office visits at concierge medical practices can last from 1-3 hours depending on patient need. This is exceedingly longer than the 7.5 minute average of traditional office visits. Having the time to spend getting to know the medical history of each patient in great detail allows concierge physicians to ensure that each patient receives exceptional care. Treatment plans are developed between the patient and the physician, and closely monitored. Consider the benefit: Like many people your age, you’re juggling the daily demands of a stressful job, raising young children, and caring for aging parents. The nightly glass of wine that you enjoyed after the kids went to bed has escalated into a glass before dinner, and sometimes another one (or two) with dinner. You realize that you need to talk with someone. A seven minute visit with your primary care physician won’t change anything, so you schedule an initial 2 hour medical history and physical with a concierge physician. Together, you begin to develop a plan towards a healthier lifestyle.
  3. Concierge physicians focus on preventative care, including necessary immunizations, health screenings, blood tests, laboratory work, and medical exams. Consider the benefit: As a busy corporate executive or newly retired couple, you’re doing last minute packing and preparing for a trip abroad. You mention your travel plans to your concierge physician who lets you know that there are potentially dangerous diseases in foreign countries which visitors should be vaccinated against. Your physician tells you to stop by the practice at your convenience and gives you the immunizations needed to protect you, and give you peace of mind on your trip.
  4. Concierge physicians may be quicker to diagnose a problem due to having an in-depth understanding of the patient’s medical history and not having to refer patients to specialists unnecessarily due to time constraints. Consider the benefit: You are experiencing unusual medical symptoms and non-specific pain. Your concierge physician has documented in your medical history that you have had an excessive number of dental fillings in the past. Your physician ultimately links the mercury in the fillings to your symptoms leading to an earlier diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
  5. Most concierge physicians make “house calls”, including at-home preventative care, immunizations, and medication management. Consider the benefit: Taking a homebound parent or loved one to doctor visits can mean significant time away from work or other daily responsibilities. Having a concierge physician who treats homebound patients in the comfort of their own home eases the stress of both caregivers and patients.
  6. Concierge physicians coordinate care that their patients receive from specialists and follow up with both the specialist and patient regarding test results, diagnoses, and next steps regarding a care plan. Consider the benefit: Due to a family history of heart disease, your concierge physician conducts a preventative EKG exam. Your physician discovers that you have an irregular heartbeat.  Before leaving the office, an appointment has been scheduled for you to see a cardiologist the next day. The concierge physician is in continuous contact and follow up with you and your cardiologist to develop a comprehensive treatment plan.
  7. With a limited patient base, concierge physicians have the time to closely examine medical studies, cutting-edge treatments, and natural alternatives. Consider the benefit: Your concierge physician understands that although you realize the important benefit of some traditional medications, you would prefer to first explore natural solutions. Your physician reads up-to-date articles and studies on natural supplements and alternatives, and shares information relating to the benefits of goji berries and Red Rice Yeast. You agree, together, that you will try these healthy alternatives as a component of your daily health care.
  8. Many concierge practices do not have physician assistants or nurses on staff. Exams, treatment, and patient phone calls are consistently handled directly by the physician, resulting in a greater continuity of care. In most concierge practices, the phones are answered by a dedicated office team member, not a machine directing a patient to select from a series of frustrating telephone prompts. Consider the benefit: It’s 3:30 on Friday afternoon and the pain which began on Tuesday as a dull headache has now escalated to an unbearable level. You are unable to function or think clearly, and you begin to panic about what could be causing the pain. You call your concierge physician office and are quickly put through to the doctor. Your concierge physician arranges for you to go directly to the laboratory facility to have an MRI conducted of your head. You receive a call from your doctor later that evening to see how you are feeling. He has received the results of your MRI and gives you a clean bill of health.
  9. Some concierge physicians see their own patients when they are receiving care in the hospital. Many people are unaware, until faced with the situation, that traditional physicians do not visit or coordinate care of their patients while hospitalized. Today, this care is typically handled by a group of hospitalists working for the hospital, who often do not know the in-depth medical history of the patient. When a concierge physician visits the hospital and personally coordinates the care of their patient, the result can be a quicker diagnosis, reduced hospital stay, and decrease in the number of unnecessary re-admissions to the hospital for the same condition. Consider the benefit: Your daughter has the chance to study Architecture in Europe. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity. She wakes up one morning with excruciating neck pain, and her roommate notices that her speech is slurred. She is rushed to the hospital. You contact the family concierge physician who plays a critical role in the coordination of her hospital care abroad, speaking frequently with the doctors in the hospital to ensure she is receiving the appropriate tests and treatment vital to her recovery. Your daughter’s concierge physician works closely with you, and the insurance company to arrange medical air travel, when appropriate, and gets your daughter safely back home.
  10. Some concierge practices offer medical wellness options, including on-site work out facilities and personal trainers, massage therapy, supplement stores, and nutritional counseling. This one-stop shopping for wellness is a welcomed perk to many concierge patients. Consider the benefit: There is more to overall wellness than excellent medical care, including proper nutrition, as well as having a healthy and fit body. Massage therapy also has been shown to reduce stress, treat headaches, and sports injuries. Having all of these wellness services provided by licensed professional on-site at your concierge medical center makes managing your healthcare, any your schedule, much easier!