You may have heard the term “concierge medicine” and perhaps are not quite sure exactly what it means, or how it is different from the traditional family practice doctor’s office that most Americans are used to. Here are some ways that the concierge medicine office environment differs from what you might be used to, and how it might benefit you as a patient.

The Evolution of Concierge Medicine

shutterstock_75683590The concept of a concierge physician used to be something that only the wealthiest individuals could take advantage of. Previously, working with a private doctor’s office meant significant annual out-of-pocket costs beyond health insurance premiums, and not many people had the financial means to take advantage of the perks these doctors offered. Today, though, concierge medicine has evolved to become affordable for almost anyone interested in having a more personalized relationship with their physician, and having access to better care.

What to Expect at Your Concierge Doctor’s Office

Lower patient volume: The traditional family doctor today often carries a patient load of several thousand people at once—the average is anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 patients for most general practitioners. With such a high volume of patients, just getting in to see the doctor can sometimes take several days or even weeks of advance planning to schedule an appointment, and once you arrive for your appointment you won’t get to see the doctor for very long. Concierge doctors generally reduce their patient volume to about 10 to 20 percent of what a traditional doctor carries, which means they can often guarantee same-day or next-day appointments for patients.

More time with the doctor: Another advantage of having fewer patients is that the doctor can often meet with each patient for longer appointment. Whereas a patient in a traditional doctor’s office might only get to spend about 10 minutes with the doctor, concierge physician patients will often be able to spend at least 30 minutes with their doctor, which allows them to discuss symptoms, concerns, and questions in depth instead of feeling rushed.

Better access to the doctor: One of the perks that many private doctors offer is the ability to reach them any time of the day or night with a simple phone call, text message, or email. Patients can get in touch with the doctor to ask basic questions or discuss health concerns 24 hours a day, any day of the year.

Comprehensive annual physical exam: The annual physical is one of the best preventive care tools available to patients, but many patients don’t get the full benefit of this service. Patients of concierge doctors often get a more comprehensive annual physical, often lasting as long as 60 minutes, which allows the patient the chance to get to know the doctor while the doctor gets to know the individual better as a patient.

Wellness plans: Many concierge doctors have a wide array of wellness plans available to patients, allowing patients to take control of their health and prevent illness. These services may include access to weight loss programs, smoking cessation, gym memberships, and other perks that can improve your health.

Increased coordination: Occasionally your healthcare needs might extend beyond the services of a family physician, but when you belong to a concierge medicine practice, your physician is still available to coordinate services such as specialty care or hospital visits. Many private doctors will follow up with specialists and even make personal visits to the hospital to ensure you are receiving the best possible care.

A comfortable environment: Concierge physician’s offices are built with the patient in mind, often providing large, comfortable waiting rooms and a staff that is friendly and knows each patient personally. With fewer patients, everyone from the doctor to the support staff takes an active interest in your health and well-being, so you know you’re taken care of from the moment you step into the office.

There are many benefits that concierge medicine can offer, and today it is become more affordable than ever for wealthy and middle-income patients to see a private physician. If your health is important, consider the advantages that a concierge practice can provide for you.