Two Sides to Every Coin
Written by Michelle Clark, ND
Concierge Medicine a.k.a. boutique medicine, direct care medicine, membership medicine, cash only practice, retainer based practice or innovative medical practice.
Let's jump to the summary. Concierge medicine is a way to see as many patients as you want with less overhead and less time wasted on billing. The primary benefit of a concierge practice is the simple annual fee ranging from $500 - $5,000. The price is determined by the number of patients accepted and the inclusion of services.
How you design your concierge practice is up to you. Accept insurance or not. Have a traditional office, a mobile office or no office. Research the lowest testing prices or not. Work with a step down emergency room or not. Have a sliding fee scale or not. Although many concierge practices cater to the elite, this is a choice of the practicing physician and has nothing to do with the concierge version of medicine.
Naturopathic physicians are becoming concierge doctors because they get to provide the high level of care expected of ND/NMD's without the conflict of charging compliant patients more than non-compliant patients. We have all had the patient that came to see us after their cold turned to pneumonia because they didn't want to pay for an unnecessary office visit. With concierge medicine, they already paid for the year and call you at the first sign of symptoms. Depending on what you charge, you may even provide immune supplements free of charge. Either way, we all know that it is easier to treat a cold in the beginning then after pneumonia settles in.
If you offer family discounts then you really create the ideal naturopathic practice. Now you treat the entire family, the entire time. One gets a cold and you are expected to increase immune support across the entire family. You may join them at the hospital to translate medical-ease for a sick family member or schedule regular wellness checks. Most importantly you meet with them as often as you wish, care becomes the primary focus.
MD/DO's are moving towards concierge medicine because many of them want to spend more time with patients and the current care standards do not allow time or billing for prevention. Not all doctors are drawn to this style, but many believe the current health care system is failing, they choose to move outside the system to deliver the care they feel is necessary.
#1 Myth: Concierge practices only cater to the wealthy elite. FALSE
A concierge practice is the perfect style to pick up pro bono families. Single parent, and low income families thrive in direct access care. Direct access can literally change lives in a single, one year membership. Simply create your fee schedule to account for the number of families you want to gift care to each year. Charge your wealthy patients enough to account for your pro bono work - and let them know about their gift to society.
#2 Myth: With a growing healthcare shortage, doctors should see more patients, not less. FALSE
Maybe the health care shortage is because there are too many people getting too sick instead of doctors teaching wellness techniques. A doctor can see 1000 patients for 6 minutes each, but did they really help any of them? What if a doctor saw 10 families a year at no charge and truly helped them learn to prevent sickness and improve health? Doesn't that sound closer to the reason we got into medicine in the first place? We can continue to attempt increasing the number of disgruntled doctors or we can decrease patient need.