Medical 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.