The numbers are sobering.
In its most recent biennial physician survey, The Physicians Foundation discovered that:
- 54% of physicians rated their morale as either “somewhat negative” or “very negative.”
- 49% of physicians often or always experienced feelings of burn-out.
- 49% of physicians would not recommend medicine as a career to their children.
Little wonder, then, that the same study found that 48% of physicians plan notable changes. When more than half of the physicians surveyed rate their morale that low, something’s got to give.
That explains, in part, the rising interest in concierge medicine – cited by that 48% as a possible alternative for them. Conveyed in its simplest terms, concierge medicine is a health care model in which patients pay a primary care physician a monthly or annual fee in exchange for more personal care.
Doctors like concierge medicine because it shifts them from a bottom-line-driven, “quantity over quality” model to one that prioritizes each patient. The same survey cited above revealed that a scant 14% of physicians felt that have the time they need to provide the highest standards of care to patients.
Here’s one way to determine if such a move is an apt one for your practice. We call it, well, A.P.T.: Adaptability + Patience + Technology.
Because concierge medicine is still relatively new to the medical services field, physicians entering it will need to be ready to adapt to an array of roles as those roles are required.
The role: Conductor
A primary care concierge medicine physician won’t perform all of the health care services her patients need. That means she’ll be required to take a more active role in orchestrating the involvement of specialists and others – conducting their efforts to arrive at the best possible course of prevention or treatment.
The role: Advocate/Educator
Unfair. Elitist. An ethical gray area. Opponents of a concierge medicine approach understand its appeal but express deep-set concerns about what it means for the future of medical care. Addressing such concerns to those who raise them – including other healthcare professionals and patients – will require an educator’s patience, a diplomat’s touch, and an advocate’s measured passion. (Advocating for patients falls under the role of “conductor,” which we discussed above.)
The role: Captain
Not every patient joins the doctor who shifts from a traditional primary care physician model to the concierge medicine model. Especially in challenging economic times, even the most stalwart of patients will walk away.
One study revealed that the median transition time to the concierge model was 12 months. Most physicians gave patients at least three months to find a new doctor. And many were very engaged with facilitating the transfer of care for those patients – underscoring the “conductor” role. That transitional period can be a trying time for even the most confident physician and her business advisors. Which is why strong captaining skills, required to successful sail such uncharted waters, is required.
Even today, concierge medicine juggles a little bit of an identity crisis. “Boutique medicine” is largely out. “Retainer medicine” and “membership medicine” also pop out periodically. Even the most prominent non-profit champion of concierge medicine struggled. First, it was the Society for Innovative Medical Practice Design. Now, it’s the American Academy of Private Physicians.
It’s only natural, then, to anticipate additional change and to shore up the patience necessary to handle them. The mechanics of concierge medicine have changed a little since its introduction in the mid-1990s and will almost certainly continue to evolve.
One of the ways it has changed? The first recognized implementation of concierge medicine cost individuals $13,200 per year. Compare that to the Cleveland Clinic Florida’s $4,000 per year cost announced in 2018. Other programs can come in at far less – as little as $39 per month.
For specialty practices, the importance of patience rises. Here’s how Wayne Lipton, managing partner for Concierge Choice Physicians, LLC, described it. “Designing a concierge program that works in concert with the goals and characteristics of a specialty practice is like solving a puzzle: there are many parts and they must all fit together for success.”
Primary care, specialty care: irrespective of the background, the concierge medicine field will change. Sometimes, changes are prompted by market fluctuations. The Wall Street Journal wrote about one doctor who shifted the focus of his concierge medicine practice from “A-list” clients who paid as much as $30,000 per month to middle-class clients he charged $59 per month and $10 per visit. The lesser rate offered more streamlined services than its pricier cousin but maintained high doctor accessibility.
A leading reason why concierge medicine is becoming more affordable? Technology. Consider the current healthcare technology landscape:
- Apple Watches, FitBits, and other devices designed to help users track their health and activity levels
- The plethora of health apps for smartphones – a category that will only grow
- The availability of real-time communication methods such as secure video conferencing, email, and texting to doctors seeking that greater connectivity
- Remote services such as telepharmacy and telerehabilitation
And those are only the broadly accessible advancements. Today’s concierge medicine practices have even more powerful tools at their disposal.
One such tool is the GE Lunar iDXA Bone Densitometer, a research-grade whole body assessment machine that works across a broad range of patient sizes and conditions. Using a device such as GE’s DXA allows physicians to determine the precise locations of muscle, bone, and fat in a patient.
That last component is especially important. Fat closest to the vital organs, subcutaneous fat, and visceral fat, can obstruct vital organs and create serious problems. This means a DXA scan can detect indicators of conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. All told, the amount of patient data available from a seven-minute DXA scan can help guide doctors establish the foundation of a wellness plan for every patient.
Paired with the growing capabilities of wearable tech and communication platforms, today’s technological advances mean a great deal to tomorrow’s concierge medicine practice.
Considering a concierge medicine practice? We invite you to leverage the experience of the DEXA+ team to help you develop a compelling suite of technological tools that will differentiate your practice for years to come. Contact us today.