The changing landscape of healthcare in the past few decades has significantly affected the way that primary care doctors provide patient care. As insurance companies shifted to a system that primarily rewards doctors for procedures (rather than consultations and time spent with patients), doctors had to start seeing more patients every day, which means there is less and less time to spend with each patient.
Now with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) many primary care providers are facing the prospect of adding millions of people to the healthcare roles who will require primary care, which means the patient load for each doctor will continue to rise. Add to that the financial squeeze that insurance companies, liability, and overhead costs put on each provider, and it’s no wonder fewer and fewer doctors are choosing primary care as their specialty. For those who do choose to remain in primary care, many doctors are now turning to concierge medicine so they can lower their patient load and provide better care to the patients they do have. If you are one of a growing number of physicians considering the switch to a concierge practice, here are some reasons it could benefit you and your patients.
More Time to Spend with Patients
The average primary care doctor today who carries a patient load of 2,000-4,000 patients will have about 10-15 minutes to spend with each patient who comes through the doors. When that is all the time you have with a patient, it is nearly impossible to get to know that person and his or her medical history, as well as current concerns about their medical issues. You have to delegate a lot of your tasks to nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants, and others in your office, and your time with patients is limited to only providing the acute care and consultation that others cannot.
By contrast, a concierge doctor will often limit his or her patient load to only about 10-20 percent of the current average, carrying a patient load of somewhere between 200 and 800 patients. Whenever one of these patients comes for an office visit, a private physician often guarantees they will get anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes with the doctor. During that time, you can build a close personal relationship so the patient feels comfortable sharing information about his or her medical history and can discuss issues and concerns. The result is better care, and a better bond with the patients you do have.
In addition, many concierge doctors guarantee that patients can be seen either the same day or the following day when they call for appointments, and offer patients the ability to get in touch with them at any time of the day or night with concerns, by sharing their personal cell phone number and private email address.
Improved Patient Outcomes
There are studies that show that patients who work with a concierge physician have a significant reduction in the number of hospital admissions, and an increase in healthy lifestyle factor such as medication compliance, exercise, and more. Many concierge physicians also offer patients a more comprehensive annual physical, and access to wellness services that can improve patients’ overall health. Finally, some concierge physicians will still provide oversight when their patients see a specialist or visit a hospital, which leads to better coordination of services.
More Satisfying Work
If you are like most primary care physicians, the goal of switching to a concierge practice is not so you can get rich (in fact, studies show that the average salary for a primary care physician remained about the same whether s/he operated in a traditional or concierge practice), but so you can provide better care to your patients. What does change is that the work you do is more satisfying, because you can spend more time helping each patient achieve optimal health. In addition, with a lower volume of patients, the amount of paperwork will go down dramatically, which means after hours work can be focused on helping patients instead of satisfying insurance paperwork requirements.