Also known as “boutique” medicine or “direct primary care,” concierge medical services give family physicians the opportunity to work closely with a patient, allowing them to build a better relationship which may be difficult to do in a hospital setting. What’s also great about concierge medicine is that patients will receive more direct and immediate care. There are no long waits in the doctor’s office and patients can schedule same-day appointments. In exchange for this enhanced service which may include 24/7 access to a doctor, patients pay an annual fee ranging from $195 to $5,000. The high price tag means physicians see fewer patients but will be spending quality time with the ones they have, allowing for the coordination of effective care, ultimately improving patient outcome.
The benefits of physicians switching to concierge medicine are not solely based on a slight salary increase. Although 36% of concierge doctors average $100-$200k/year, they also experience increased job satisfaction and less stress. And while the number of practicing concierge doctors is small, it’s growing at a rapid pace. According to the American Academy of Private Physicians, the U.S. had about 4,400 private physicians in 2012, a 25% increase from 2011. It’s important to note that more doctors will gravitate to this model as the traditional healthcare system becomes more strained due to the Affordable Care Act. To avoid dealing with insurance companies, some concierge practices are cash-only and do not accept any kind of insurance. This allows physicians to keep overhead costs down, saving their practice money.
While concierge medicine is cited as being less stressful than traditional practices, one issue that may deter family physicians from becoming a concierge doctor is that you are on-call 24/7. Literally. This practice model is built on patients having total access to a medical professional – whether it’s by email, phone or face-to-face interaction. Making home visits at 2am is all part of the job, and dedicated physicians who choose concierge medicine are more than willing to take the call.
Another possible roadblock for family physicians opting for this privatized line of work is convincing current patients to make the switch with you. Dr. Floyd Russak, a practicing internist in Colorado, knows all about transitioning to a concierge practice. In an article by Physicians Practice, Russak cites that his biggest fear was, “What if I start this party and nobody comes?” The biggest help for Russak was SignatureMD, a company that helps physicians ease into concierge practice. Once settled in, patients and all, Russak was finally able do what he was trained to do, treat “the sickest internal-medicine patients with interesting major problems.”
Considered to be the future of health care, concierge medicine is becoming a more attractive career option for family doctors in the U.S. This practice may not be for everyone, but it’s certainly a financially viable career path.