Debunking 5 Popular Myths About Private Physicians

shutterstock_16658242Medical care is something that everyone needs, but in today’s healthcare environment there are a lot of different ways that people can access care. One of the growing trends is general practitioners switching to concierge medical practices. If you have heard about concierge medicine before, you may have heard one or more of these popular myths about the model, and it may have made you think twice about switching your practice to concierge medicine. We’re here to debunk some of the most common myths and give you a better understanding of what a concierge physician does.

Myth 1: Most patients can’t afford a concierge doctor

The Truth: While there may have been a time that concierge medicine catered mostly to wealthy individuals, there are a wide variety of models employed by physicians today that cater to patients from a range of income levels. Doctors who have a valuable service can usually find a large number of people willing to pay for that service, and can devise a payment and fee structure that makes it affordable and accessible to most people who want to participate—the key is highlighting the value that patients receive for the extra money they pay. There may be a few people who have to leave your practice for financial reasons, but for the most part access to concierge medicine is expanding for people across the income spectrum.

Myth 2: Most patients don’t like the idea of concierge medicine

The Truth: Concierge medicine is a new concept for most patients, and they probably just don’t know much about it yet. If you are serious about changing your practice to become a concierge physician, you will need to help your patients understand the value of this new model of care. Doctors who are not sure about the value will probably not be very good advocates for concierge medicine, and that can negatively affect patient perception as well. Doctors who are enthusiastic about the benefits that concierge medicine can bring will often see that enthusiasm mirrored in their patients. If you can clearly state the value (and truly offer more value as a concierge doctor), your patients will see it too.

Myth 3: I don’t live in the right area for a successful concierge practice

The Truth: Private physicians today are coming up with more and more creative ways to implement a concierge medicine model so it fits their patient demographics. The key is to find out what your patients want, then offer that as part of your practice model. If financial barriers are getting in the way, figuring out how to lower overhead costs and keep retainer fees lower, or finding ways to allow patients to make manageable payments will encourage membership. Again, the success of a private doctor depends on the value of the services you offer, and your situation may require that you come up with a unique “menu” of added-value services that you provide. Any physician can overcome difficult demographics by offering services that patients see as a worthwhile way to spend the money they do have.

Myth 4: My patients will take advantage of the 24/7 access

The Truth: One of the big selling points for many patients in a concierge practice is the ability to reach the physician 24/7 via cell phone, email, or even social media. While it may seem overwhelming as a physician to give patients this kind of access, keep in mind that there are far fewer patients in the practice, which limits call volume significantly, and since concierge practices usually offer same-day appointments most patients don’t abuse this privilege.

Myth 5: It’s illegal/unethical to operate a concierge medicine practice

The Truth: Concierge medicine offers patients and physicians a choice to pay for a service that provides value to them, and it allows you to provide a higher level of care to your patients. From a legal perspective, if you plan to accept insurance in addition to your retainer fees, it is important that you clearly separate the services that are provided to patients as part of the retainer, and those that you will bill insurance for to avoid double-billing, which is illegal. From an ethical perspective, this is an effective model to offer better care to your patients.

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Are You Ready to Switch to a Concierge Medicine Practice?

In today’s health care environment there are a lot of patients that don’t get the attention and care they want 23254695_blogfrom the doctor. With a growing load of patients in need of care and a shrinking number of primary care providers, doctors have less and less time they can devote to each individual patient.

If you are a physician that is tired of trying to keep up with a patient load of several thousand people and you want to be able to offer more comprehensive care to the people you work with, perhaps a concierge practice is right for you. Here are some of the benefits of switching to determine if you are ready to make the change.

Develop a Better Connection with Patients

A typical medical practice often must carry a patient load of several thousand people in order to remain financially stable, and it is not uncommon for a physician to have anywhere from 2,000 to 4,000 patients or more. Unfortunately this high patient load isn’t good for you as the physician, or for the people you work with. You often get only a limited window of 10 to 15 minutes to spend with each person before moving on to the next appointment, which makes it difficult to get a whole picture of what is going on and get input from the patient to provide adequate medical advice.

As a concierge physician, you can limit the number of patients that you see to about 20 percent of your current patient load, and charge a retainer fee to make up for lost income when you limit your patient load. With fewer patients on your roles, you can spend more quality time with each patient to learn about their health, history, and goals.

Offer a Higher Level of Service

Concierge medicine is no longer just for the wealthy, it has become something that doctors want to make available to a wide range of patients. Since many people are already struggling with high costs of health care, asking them to pay more means you have to offer more in exchange. Many private doctors offer patients several benefits, including:

  • Same-day or next-day appointments
  • Comprehensive physical examinations that last up to 60 minutes
  • Access to the physician 24/7 on a personal phone, email, and social media
  • Appointments with 30+ minutes of face time with the physician
  • Shorter waiting times
  • Focus on preventive care
  • Wellness programs
  • Coordinated care, even when you need to see a specialist or go to the hospital

Coordinate Care

In addition to offering more face time in check-ups and appointments, many concierge physicians see this model as a chance to really coordinate care for patients, accompanying them to the hospital or emergency room if they have to go, and following up with specialists when they are referred out of your office. This higher level of care means that you have a better picture of the overall health of your patients and can recommend treatment with the bigger picture in mind.

Same Pay, More Satisfying Work

It’s important to note that changing to a concierge medicine practice is not something you should do if your goal is just to make more money. Studies show that an average family physician makes about $150,000 to $300,000 per year regardless of whether he or she has a traditional or concierge practice. The difference is in the type of work you do—concierge physicians are able to see fewer patients in a day, slow down their pace, and spend more time with each person.

They often report that the amount of paperwork declines, while they still do about the same amount of work outside of patient care in the evenings and on weekends (since patients now have access to personal contact information 24/7). Many concierge physicians can also operate with a smaller staff, and thus fewer overhead costs, because there are fewer patients to manage and less paperwork to fill out.

Physicians that decide to make the switch to concierge practices should know that it will require some extra effort marketing and selling the benefits to patients, convincing them that paying extra money is worth it for the extra services. While it probably won’t be easy to make the switch, it often leads to a more satisfying model for patient care.

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5 Critical Tools for Concierge Medicine Success

3943754_blogMany physicians today are feeling the crunch of operating a medical practice—the huge volume of patients that most practices carry, the paperwork required to keep up with insurance regulations and healthcare laws, and the limited time you have to make an impact on the health of the people you see every day.

If you have considered setting up a concierge medicine practice, you’re not the only one. There has been a significant increase in the number of medical doctors who are choosing to forego the traditional model of healthcare in favor of a practice where they keep patient volume low in order to provide a better experience for each patient. When decide that this model is right for you, here are five tools that will help you achieve success.

A Solid (Written) Business Plan

Most private physicians have never written a business plan, but they are a critical tool for organizing your plan and executing it successfully. A business plan is more than just an idea—it is a physical, written document that you use to outline your plan for your concierge medicine practice. You will need to identify in this document things like:

  • The business model you plan to use
  • A realistic goal for number of patients you want in the practice
  • Retainer fees
  • Interaction with insurance providers
  • Financial projections for the first 3 to 5 years

Creating a good business plan means you will think through all the different scenarios in advance, and you will be prepared when you open the practice for some of the challenges you are likely to face. It is also critical if you plan to apply for a loan or seek funding to open the practice. Lenders often require that you have a plan and a financial outline that is realistic and comprehensive in order to get a loan.

A Plan for Notifying Your Patients

If you are already in a traditional medical practice, chances are you have several thousand patients. Since the point of a concierge medicine practice is to reduce the volume of patients and spend more time with each one, you won’t be able to take them all with you—and not all of them will be willing to pay an additional fee for the added value of a private doctor.

To avoid losing all of your patients, you need a plan to tell existing patients about the change—you may even want to consider taking a survey of your patients to learn what they would pay extra for, and the kind of “fluff” they don’t want to pay for. Let them know the benefits of joining your concierge practice, the fees you plan to charge (and what they will get as an added value in exchange for these fees), as well as the timeline for the change. Surprising your patients with the news today that you’re becoming a concierge practice tomorrow is never a good idea.

A Quality Marketing Team

You may not be much of a marketing person, but in order to succeed in a concierge practice you will need to either develop some marketing skills, or hire someone to help. It doesn’t have to be a large marketing team, but you want someone who can advise you on creating the right image, brand, logo, website, and marketing materials. You don’t want to send out fliers made from home that look homemade or amateurish when you’re marketing a medical practice where you ask people to pay a premium for services. If your graphic design and media skills are lacking, hire a professional.

The Right Attorney

There are legal issues that may arise, which is why having an attorney available is crucial. This person should be familiar with the legal requirements for creating a concierge medicine practice, such as identifying covered and non-covered services for third-party payers to avoid double-billing, and should have experience in health care.

A Concierge Consultant

The work of building a new medical practice or transitioning an existing practice to concierge medicine is not easy, and there are a lot of things to consider. Consultants can train your staff in proper protocol for becoming a concierge physician, recommend pricing and fee structures, identify software and processes that will make the business run smoothly, and help you reach out to patients with the right messages about how concierge medicine benefits them.

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Senate Votes to Approve Protecting Access to Medicare

senate-bill-passedOn Monday March 31st, 2014, the US Senate voted 64 to 35 to approve H.R. 4302, Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. HR 4302 creates another temporary ‘fix’ to the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) fee cuts and it mandates that Health and Human Services (HHS) cannot adopt ICD-10 until at least October 1st 2015.

HHS has not clarified when it will set the new implementation deadline.

There are many other amendments contained in HR 4302, including some limitations on RAC auditors’ ability to recoup for short hospital stays (2 midnight rule). You can access the entire bill at the link below.

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The Concierge Medicine Office Environment

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.

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