In order to avoid the ongoing stress and health insurance headaches, many physicians have switched to cash-only practices and are saving their patients money in the process. Physicians throughout the country are setting up membership-based programs that offer discounts on services to customers.
The programs vary greatly in price--anywhere from $100 a year to $2,500 annually--depending on patient load and the level of personal attention you want. It's a trend also known as "concierge medicine."
The demand for concierge, direct care, cash only and retainer-based medical models by consumers has been on the rise for many years. Experts claim that the number of patients who are seeking concierge medical care is far greater than the actual number of primary care and family practice doctors available to serve them.
Top 10 Fastest Growing Cities For Concierge Medicine
- San Fransisco, CA
- New York, NY
- Palm Beach, FL
- Baltimore, MD
- Washington, DC
- Philadelphia, PA
- Seattle, WA
- Chicago, IL
- San Diego, CA
“Despite what we hear in the media about the increase in concierge and private-pay physicians growing across America, there are simply not enough of these [concierge-style, direct care or membership medicine-style] physicians in the U.S. to meet the current demand,” said Michael Tetreault, Editor-In-Chief of Concierge Medicine Today and Executive Director of The Concierge Medicine Research Collective. “Interest in our LOCATE A DOCTOR search engine [for concierge-style, direct care doctors] has increased tremendously since the election and the first of the year. But, unfortunately, even if you include all of the doctors touting themselves as retainer-based or concierge medical practices — at the end of the day, the marketplace is still falling short.”
Demand For Concierge Medical Care Currently Outweighs Supply of Physicians Across U.S.
There are currently four states that have a huge lead in the amount of active concierge or private-pay physicians in practice and consumers seeking their care. Florida, California, Pennsylvania and Virginia each have a significant number of people [most over age 50] seeking out concierge doctors and there is, fortunately, a sizeable number of concierge physicians to serve them.
It’s extremely difficult to find a physician for those seeking concierge physician services in very rural areas like Idaho, North and South Dakota, Louisiana, Mississippi and others. Often times, we have found that there are less than half-a-dozen practitioners to serve an entire state says one Patient Connection Specialist at CMT.
Merritt Hawkins released similar data from their survey among physicians considering opening a concierge medical practice stating the following:
States with Doctors Considering Starting A Concierge-Style Medical Practice
- Texas: 10.6%
- Florida: 9.1%
- New York: 8%
- California: 6.7%
- North Carolina: 5.6%
- Illinois: 5.3%
- Washington State: 4.8%
- Pennsylvania: 4.5%
“While the number of physicians entering concierge medical practices needs to increase,” adds Tetreault, “more transparent pricing among doctors is also needed. Unfortunately, our nation’s new health care reform law does little in this respect.”
Increasing the Number of Concierge Physicians Across The U.S.
There are three ways you can instantly increase the number of physicians stated above.
First, understand that the terminology being used in the concierge medicine or direct care marketplace describes many types of business models where doctors have some form of non-insurance or direct financial relationship with their patients. While all concierge medicine practices share similarities, they may vary widely in their structure, payment requirements, and form of operation. But at the end of the day, price transparency, access, affordable rates and the personal level of service provided to each patient is what they all have in common.
Second, understand that the term concierge medicine describes more specialties than just primary care, internal medicine and family medicine. Some dermatology, pediatric, cardiology and even dental practitioners are now providing a level of concierge medical care.
Third, education. Most people understand that concierge medicine has had somewhat of a “brand/identity” issue. It’s been referred to as: membership medicine; boutique medicine; retainer-based medicine; concierge health care; cash only practice; direct care; direct primary care, personalized healthcare, direct practice medicine and, most recently, contract carrying healthcare. Because at its inception, it appeared costly, elitist and controversial, many people associated a “rich man’s” stigma to it. However, the consumer, the physician community and even some legislators are realizing that this form of healthcare delivery, when free-market driven, is saving money and providing “better care,” according to MDVIP hospitalization studies conducted in the past two years
Why Patients Choose Concierge Medicine
- 34% said price was the main reason they chose concierge medical care
- 17% said Medicare acceptance/participation was the main reason they chose concierge medical care
- 6% said more time with my doctor was the main reason they chose concierge medical care
- 29% said insurance compatibility was the main reason they chose concierge medical care
- 6% said less office staff to deal with was the main reason they chose concierge medical care
- 2% said limited/no waiting was the main reason they chose concierge medical care
The takeaway here is that while price is important, it’s the additional selling features that help build your brand and make you more attractive to patients. The second takeaway here and important to note is that a lot of concierge practices focus on limited or no waiting at their office. While this is a nice feature of the practice, it was the least important aspect as to why patients choose concierge care for them and their family.
Regardless of how you describe it or the term you associate with concierge medicine, the public’s perception of these healthcare delivery models is changing for the better. Patient retention among concierge medical physicians is 7 to 9 years, two years longer than traditional, insurance based primary care practices. We expect this number to increase as time passes and more data becomes available. When a physician is free to create pricing structures that meet their local demographic demands without the intrusion from insurance and avoid providing “hamster healthcare,” which only allows doctors to spend 6 to 9 minutes with their patients, you make a happier patient, healthier family and less frustrated and fatigued doctor who is able to care for their patients more thoroughly and comprehensively.