Concierge Medicine...
Deal or No Deal?

If there's one thing I've learned in the past several years about concierge medicine and researching this emerging health care market, it's that people really don't understand it's not about price. I like to think of those pioneering doctors of the past who carry around a medical bag with a stethoscope inside and who come to the aid of my family and our bedside as visionary physicians who wanted to "normalize" their practice and get back to practicing medicine before 1950.

So, here are the top six (6) items every patient should truly understand about concierge medicine:

1) AVAILABILITY - Yes! It really is possible for a doctor to provide 24/7 access to his/her patients... and no -- this is not just some marketing tactic that seeks to over promise and under deliver. There's now evidence that when a doctor reduces his/her practice from its original size of 2,000 - 5,000 patients down to 300 - 600, he or she is choosing to "normalize" their practice and provide more availability and access to each patient. Inturn, that patient gets to really know the doctor and there is a bond and friendship that is formed.

2) COST - It doesn't cost a lot... it actually costs less than my cell phone bill. Over 50% of current concierge medicine fees cost an average or $1,500 per year or less than $135 per month. (Source 1) The USANetwork's breakout hit Royal Pains is entertaining -- the overwhelming majority is that most concierge medicine or private medical plans cater to those who can't afford the high health insurance premiums their used to paying with large health plan carriers.

3) CELL PHONE ACCESS - YES! They actually do pick up the phone and it's not a nurse or staff person. If you are enrolled in a concierge medical practice, then you are paying an annual or monthly fee for "enhanced access" and a close relationship with your physician. That's right, the unthinkable has become a true reality. Doctors are now giving their cell phone numbers to their patients and they are the ones picking up the calls.

4) SAME DAY APPOINTMENTS - Included in most membership medicine fees is same day appointments and enhanced access to you doctor. In fact, a recent poll conducted by the Collective found that 100% of concierge physicians promise and actually deliver "same day" appointments.

5) WHAT I REALLY NEED WILL BE INCLUDED - It's a well known fact that approximately 88% of the average persons health care can be handled by their primary care or family physician. Thus, concierge medicine services typically offered inside these plans usually include: physical exams, blood work, unlimited office visits and other services. These annual or monthly fees typically cover basic services that include preventive care, routine physicals, longer appointments, next-day appointments, 24-hour-a-day phone access and e-mail, house calls, coordination of care when you travel, and an interactive medical ID bracelet in case of an emergency.

6) IS IT COMPATIBLE WITH MY INSURANCE? A recent study was conducted (Source 2) with this question in mind. The result of the study found that most concierge medicine physicians (nearly 80%) practice inside a business model called a "Hybrid" practice. Hybrid meaning these doctors accept most insurance plans along with offering the delivery or 24/7 cell phone access to your doctor, no wait appointments, call-in prescriptions and more via a monthly or annual retainer.

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