The patient with traditional health care coverage usually pays a monthly premium and then a co-pay at each primary care provider visit. There are usually higher co-pays for specialty provider visits and perhaps even deductibles for hospitals or other healthcare facilities. For the provider, these plans involve billing and then waiting for reimbursements from insurance companies, on which they are dependent for their financial solvency. There are options to these traditional plans. One of the options is concierge medicine.
Although concierge medicine is based on a concept that is anything but new – providing personal service to a small group of patients – the formal structure has been around for just over 20 years. In concierge medicine, the patient pays a set monthly fee, which can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. For that fee, the patient is covered for primary care provider visits as well as a list of other services. The patient is generally able to schedule same-day appointments and receives personal care based on an enhanced provider-patient relationship.
For the provider, concierge medicine offers:
- Smaller patient base. Concierge practices typically are able to maintain smaller groups of patients, providing each patient with more personal service.
- Predictable monthly fee. Instead of relying on fees billed per visit, the concierge physician can be assured of a steady stream of income from patients’ monthly fees.
- Access to patient-provider communication. With a smaller patient base, communication happens more frequently and more quickly, so questions can be answered and care instructions can be conveyed more efficiently.
- Limited insurance company interactions. Many patients in concierge care may continue to carry insurance coverage. However, the concierge provider does not rely on those reimbursements but rather bills insurance as a convenience for patients.
Concierge medicine is still a small part of independent physician practices but is growing at a rate of about 5% to 6% annually across the country.