Is Concierge Medicine a Buzzword or a Real Trend in Healthcare?

Updated on November 20, 2019
Michael Kagen MD profile image

Michael Kagen, MD, leads the membership-based concierge medical practice, Kagen MD, in Park City, Utah.

When you really think about it, we have a lot of choices in life. We have complete freedom to choose who to trust to manage our money, to cut our hair, and to tend our lawns. But when it comes to choosing one of our most important partners—our doctor—our choices are limited by big insurance companies. Not only are our choices limited, the way in which we partner with our doctor is also managed by the health insurance system. A new type of medical practice has been gaining steam around the country in response to the current situation. People are pushing back against large insurance companies having a say in the amount of time they spend with their doctors and how they spend it, which is being addressed by Concierge Medicine practices.

What Is Concierge Medicine?

Concierge Medicine, also called Retainer Medicine, is direct personal healthcare that eliminates the insurance company from the doctor-patient relationship. These practices are membership based, where patients sign up and pay a monthly or annual fee, much like a gym membership, which covers well visits as well as appointments when the patient is under the weather. The idea is that the practice is structured to deliver a premium service to its members, which often means more time with the doctor, as well as conveniences that are difficult for large practices with a laser-focused eye towards margin and profitability to deliver.

Proponents of this model argue that it enables the doctor to provide the preventative care that is truly the key to good health, but also serve as the advocate needed if health issues do arise. As many studies have shown, an established relationship with a doctor that knows a patient personally and has connections to the best specialists available is an invaluable asset if a patient is facing a health challenge.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Concierge Medicine?

Concierge medicine offers perks that are nearly unheard of in most of today's medical practices. Many patients of boutique doctors see the membership fee as the same type of expenditure as their gym membership fee, country club costs, or other self-care expenses. These practices make their pricing transparent, eliminating confusing pricing structures and the dreaded decoding of statements of benefits from insurance companies. This model also eliminates copays and deductibles. This up-front, monthly expense is simpler for patients to plan for, rather than dealing with the surprise expense of seeing a physician when they fall ill.

Telemedicine

The most progressive direct primary care (DPC) doctors offer telemedicine options, like video conference appointments. This can be an invaluable benefit for busy professionals who find themselves traveling for business and needing care while on the road, or those who have a hard time leaving their home because of an illness or because they are caretakers. This is also a great way for patients to quickly follow up with their doctor as they begin new medications or lifestyle changes. The ability to readily access a personal physician is a benefit that can not typically be met by traditional practices as the pressure to efficiently see the maximum number of patients each day is immense.

Concierge medicine doctors typically offer high-tech telemedicine options as well as old fashioned home visits.
Concierge medicine doctors typically offer high-tech telemedicine options as well as old fashioned home visits. | Source

Old Fashioned House Calls

While technological options like telemedicine are often offerings of concierge practices, so are old fashioned, personal healthcare benefits like home visits or meeting the patient where ever is most convenient for that person. Staying away from doctors’ offices packed with sick people can be especially important for those with compromised immune systems or people who have a hard time leaving their homes for any reason.

Members of concierge medicine practices also say they enjoy having a doctor come to them at their convenience rather than enduring long waits for appointments and working around the doctor’s schedule. This can be especially helpful for those who have untraditional work schedules or just can't spend the time driving, waiting and then being rushed through an appointment.

Concierge medicine offers a unique way to experience medicine unfettered by the outside influence of insurance carriers. This trend is one that is gaining momentum as people get increasingly frustrated by the involvement of large insurance companies having a say in their personal healthcare decisions.

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