If you’ve ever traveled and sought the expertise of the hotel’s concierge for directions, reservations and local recommendations, you get it. They are usually exceptionally helpful and really ADD VALUE to your stay.
The same principal applies for the trending concierge medicine, a highly personalized approach to patient primary care. For an annual fee you have round the clock access to your physician, along with same day appointments, lab testing, preventive care and longer appointments. Sounds great, right? If you can afford it.
Many local practices are turning toward this model, and it is a polarizing issue. Some patients find themselves suddenly without a doctor because they can’t afford the new annual fee on top of their health insurance costs. Plus, the concierge service is offered first come first served, which can make longtime patients feel abandoned.
Other locals are embracing this model because they now have comprehensive care whenever they need it, instead of waiting weeks or months for an appointment.
Doctors say it works and reduces hospitalizations. They now usually see 6 – 10 patients a day instead of the typical 25 – 35, improving the doctor-patient relationship considerably. The membership fees take them away from the nightmarish reimbursement levels in the fee-for-service model.
You’ll pay more for concierge care (typically $1,500 – $3,600 annually in southern Delaware) in addition to your regular insurance – which most of these membership practices do not accept. You still have to pay for specialized care, emergency visits, insurance deductibles and other out of pocket expenses.
Another hybrid approach that is gaining speed is direct primary care (DPC), less expensive than concierge care. Typically, rates are between $100 – $150 per month. For a flat rate retainer fee, you receive similar personalized care, lab work and same day appointments. But these practices don’t take private insurance or Medicare, and you still have to pay for insurance and specialty care.
Who then can benefit from concierge care? It is well-suited for elderly patients and people with chronic medical conditions that require personalized and more frequent visits. With a national shortage of primary care physicians, having concierge care guarantees you’ll get the care on demand.
Shop around! Every practice is structured differently. Be sure regardless of your choice to make sure your doctor is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and affiliated with a major hospital. Here’s to your health!