The doctor’s hands are tied. Perhaps she can’t order the test you need because it isn’t covered by your insurance. Perhaps the best treatment isn’t covered, either, so he’ll choose a less effective alternative. Perhaps you can’t even get in to see her for six more weeks, because she has hundreds of patients and limited time.
Insurance companies and corporate bureaucracies limit the care a physician can provide. Traditional medicine has become too bogged down by red tape, but staying shackled to this broken system is not the only option. Patients and doctors alike are finding that private and concierge medicine can free doctors to once again provide effective, efficient care.
Due to the aging of the Baby Boomer generation and influx of over 30 million new patients who will enter the healthcare system as a result of the Affordable Care Act, doctor’s offices are more crowded than ever. In many parts of the country, it is already the norm for patients to be put on a months-long waiting list before they can see a specialist.
American doctors spend an average of $82,975 per year dealing with insurance companies, and they must book a high volume of patients to offset that cost. Wait times are longer, the amount of time a physician spends one-on-one with a patient is decreasing, and many physicians have turned the bulk of their patient care over to nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants. As a result, you may wait months for an appointment, then hours in the doctor’s office, only to see someone less qualified, and for only a few minutes.
Doctors are as unsatisfied with this model as their patients, and many are transitioning to concierge medicine because it enables them to provide the high quality, personal care they know their patients deserve. By eliminating insurance they are able to take on a much smaller patient load and focus on treating those patients as individuals.
Insurance companies and hospitals may limit how and when a doctor can see her patients, but many concierge doctors are available outside of the traditional office hours. Some visit their patients in their homes or at their workplaces. They may even be able to provide care over the phone for common ailments and routine follow-ups. Smart phones enable doctors to look at rashes and minor injuries and make recommendations while sparing patients the time and expense of coming into the office.
Many health insurance companies cover only diagnostic medicine, a model in which you must already be sick in order to receive care. In addition, they may not allow physicians to utilize nontraditional medicine in their treatment. Private care physicians can take a more holistic approach, ordering expanded blood panels and screenings in order to catch potential problems early and exploring remedies beyond pharmaceuticals. One private physician found that her patients were 65% less likely to visit an emergency room and 35% less likely to require hospitalization. By providing preventative care, private physicians can actively promote health, instead of merely combatting illness.
For many people, concierge medicine conjures the image of a wealthy CEO paying lavish fees to fly his private physician to his yacht in the Mediterranean. However, the personal care offered by private and concierge medicine is no longer the sole purview of the rich. In fact, many private care physicians charge a monthly retainer that is similar to the cost of traditional insurance. This, in addition to the timely care and focus on preventative medicine can mean that a patient will spend less money overall and lose less of their income to unplanned time off.
Patients are increasingly frustrated with business models that prohibit doctors from providing high quality, personal care. Fortunately, concierge and private medicine are becoming more and more available and affordable, giving all patients access to a system where the doctor’s hands are never tied.