As a patient, have you ever slammed your (landline) phone down in frustration when you learned that the next opening to see your doctor isn’t available for three months? Or from the doctor’s side, you’re ready to punch your medical computer because you’re being dinged for spending 20 minutes per patient instead of the mandatory 15? A relatively new form of medical practice – concierge medicine – may be the answer to patients and providers caught in the above situations. We provide a simple guide below, covering what it is, its benefits to patients, and follow up with its advantages to providers.  

What Is the Purpose of Concierge Medicine?

Concierge medicine is a form of medical practice where the patient directly pays an annual fee or retainer to their provider. In exchange, the provider, who is usually a primary care physician, offers exclusive, personalized health care. Medicine concierge also goes by other names:

  • Boutique medicine
  • Concierge care
  • Direct primary care
  • Medicine concierge
  • Personalized medical service providers
  • Platinum practice
  • Retainer-based medicine

Patients sign up with a concierge doctor for:

  • Guaranteed access to care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Many patients receive their doctor’s direct phone line for medical questions. 
  • Same or next-day appointments in the office. Equipment found in healthcare groups like medical tablets can be found in concierge medicine for similar reasons (i.e., medical grade, fanless design, IP65 rated, etc.)
  • Office and telehealth visits without timed “patient slots”.
  • Standard medical care ranging from blood work, physicals and preventative screening, to certain kinds of wound treatment. 
  • No co-pays or deductibles for office visits. 
  • With few exceptions, no insurance or corporate healthcare involvement
  • Discounts off certain common medications that are dispensed directly from the office.
  • Coordination of specialist referrals and/or hospital care as needed. 

For the above benefits and more, patients often pay a monthly retainer fee. The range of this cost can vary, and range from $1,500 a year for basic care to $20,000 or more for specialized services.

Concierge medicine practices are usually broken down into three business models: 

  • The Fee for Care (FFC) model is where the patient pays the provider a fee on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. 
  • The Fee for Extra Care (FFEC) model is similar to the FFC. The patient’s medical plans like private health insurance and/or Medicare may also be charged by the concierge doctor for certain kinds of additional services. 
  • “Hybrid” concierge medicine business models are those that charge patients for additional services not covered by their fee or by their medical insurance(s). Examples may include the provider’s email address, “unusually” long office visits, or even their newsletter. 

Patients who are well-off financially, and are living with long-term or chronic medical conditions that need frequent doctor visitations, make up the bulk of the patients at medicine concierge offices. As Louise Aronson, a professor of geriatrics at the University of California San Francisco and author of Elderhood: Redefining Aging, Transforming Medicine, Reimagining Life, points out: “I think the appeal for both patients and doctors is that it [concierge medicine] addresses a failing of the regular healthcare system, which doesn’t give anyone enough time for what one might safely call care. Right now, a healthy 30-year-old with no health problems other than seasonal allergies gets the exact same amount of time as an 87-year-old with 12 medical issues who’s on 18 different medications.”

What is the Difference Between a Concierge Doctor and a Regular Doctor?

Concierge doctors, or providers who open and/or work in concierge medicine, have the same education, training, and licenses to practice medicine as those primary care physicians working in the more mainstream, insurance-led healthcare groups as well as alternatives like urgent care centers and retail clinics. Common duties include:

  • Administer lab tests.
  • Perform physical exams. 
  • Provide diagnostic screenings.
  • Treat minor skin conditions including stitching.

Many concierge doctors choose this unique form a private practice to:

  • Limit the number of patients. Most typically see between 450 to 600 patients per year. Contrast that to a typical primary care provider who sees on average closer to 2,500 patients in the same time period. 
  • The flat-rate, subscription-based payment structure provides two benefits. One, it guarantees a predictable revenue and, two, it minimizes the amount of paperwork – and conflicts – typical when dealing with insurance companies. 
  • With less patients per day, a concierge doctor can schedule appointments ranging from thirty minutes to an hour depending on their patient’s needs. Because of this, many felt delivered a higher quality of care than under the thumb of healthcare groups. As Dr. Sequita L. Richardson of the Missouri-based Encompass Medical Group, points out: “Doctors get frustrated with government restraints and insurance. There are administrative burdens, so people are burnt out and unhappy. Primary care on demand [concierge medicine] sounds attractive because you can get back to doing what you love to do.” 

How Big is the Concierge Medicine Market?

At the time of this writing, there are approximately 10,000 to 25,000 concierge doctors practicing worldwide. That is a fraction of the 9.2 million MDs, many of whom are employed in healthcare groups. The market, though, is growing. Valued at 6.1 billion USD back in 2022, the market for concierge medicine is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 10.32 percent from now to 2030.

Closing Thoughts

Patients and providers, frustrated with insurance-led healthcare systems, are turning to alternatives. Concierge medicine is one of them, offering a more personalized patient-doctor relationship for a stipend. 

Contact an expert at Cybernet if you’re a concierge doctor and are looking to set up medical computers and their numerous benefits for your practice.