Private Medecine For All Types of Budgets

There was a time when private medicine was a privilege reserved only for the rich and famous—the idea ofdv2062025 paying a doctor a retainer that could run several thousand dollars a month was out of reach for most middle-class families in America. As the healthcare landscape has shifted over the past couple of decades and more and more doctors are looking for ways to provide the highest level of patient care at a cost that everyone can afford, the concept of private medicine practices has also changed.

The Private Medicine Model

While there is no specific way that a private physician must operate his or her clinic, there are a few things that most private medicine practices have in common:

  • Patients pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee for access to basic care, such as check-ups and doctor’s appointments. In many cases these offices offer additional tests and services at a discount because they don’t bill insurance companies. While patients are still encouraged to carry insurance for catastrophic illness, insurance is not required for basic care.
  • Doctors reduce the volume of patients in their clinic to about 10-20 percent of a “normal” primary care physician’s patient load so they can provide more comprehensive care to the patients they do have.
  • Physicians promise patients 24/7 access through email, cell phone, and even social media.
  • Patients are able to get same-day or next-day appointments any time they call.
  • With fewer patients, doctors can spend more time with each patient helping them manage chronic diseases or improve overall health and wellness.

Eliminating the need for insurance and all the paperwork and overhead costs that come along with it allows these doctors to streamline their practice so they can focus more on patient care, which is something most doctors would prefer to do anyway. Other perks like comprehensive annual physicals and the ability to ask questions day or night help patients feel like they are in control of their care.

Affordable Fees Bring in New Patients

Several decades ago the annual or monthly retainer fee for a private physician could run several thousand dollars a month. As the cost of healthcare has skyrocketed over the years and more and more families are without insurance, private doctors have started to reduce their rates to welcome more people into their practices.

A recent study revealed that in some areas of the country as much as 20 percent of the population has avoided seeing a doctor in the past year because the cost was too high. Today’s private medicine practices provide patients with basic primary care for a fraction of the cost, with average retainer fees between $130-$150 per month (a cost lower than most insurance plans), with some as low as $50 or less.

Private physicians like to think of healthcare the same way that we do car maintenance—people purchase insurance for catastrophic events, but pay for regular and preventive maintenance without involving the insurance company. Concierge medicine can be the same, limiting the cost of insurance by taking care of the basics out of pocket at a much more affordable cost.

A Better Approach to Care

The private medicine approach has shown tremendous benefits for both doctors and patients alike. Many doctors who go into primary care quickly become disillusioned with the profession, seeing dozens of patients every day for only a few minutes, and providing episodic treatment for patients who are sick without being able to offer ongoing comprehensive care and disease management. Patients are also frustrated with the long wait times to even get into most primary care offices and the limited time they have to interact with the doctor.

Physicians who have introduced a model for private medicine find that by reducing the patient load and charging an affordable monthly fee, they rediscover their passion for patient care, while the people who are members of the private practice can get the level of care they expect from their physician.

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A Price Check-Up for Concierge Medicine

Contains a Formula that will allow beginners and veterans to determine if it’s time to change your membership fee

Article written by Sonja Horner

Just like your car, your concierge medicine practice may be due for a price check-up. Whether you are starting your concierge medical practice or if you are a veteran, it’s important to confirm the balance between your membership fee and your services. Here is a simple tool to establish or perform a price check-up.

Are You Giving Your Time Away?

The amount of time a physician has available to see patients each day and how that time is used continues to be the primary source of revenue for a practice, regardless of the model. The reality is that a physician’s schedule needs to be filled each day by a certain number of patients or guaranteed membership revenue to make the practice’s model viable. Let’s create an example to demonstrate how a concierge physician’s time and membership fee would need to align to generate $800,000 (*) in gross revenue.

A Concierge Physician who has a marketplace that will support a membership fee of $1,000 or $85 a month could use this example:

Let’s say you would like to work 48 weeks per year at 40 hours a week, you would need to see 16 patients a day at $1,000 per member per year to reach a gross revenue of $800,000 (*). That assumes a full practice at 800 members with 2.4 hours of time per member. This allotment of time is ample for primary care services (colds, flu, check-ups), as well as follow-ups and the administrative work that is required.

A Concierge Physician who has a market that will support a membership fee of $2,000 or above could use this example:

A Concierge Medicine physician who would like to work 48 weeks per year at 40 hours a week, will need to see 8 patients a day at $2,000 per member per year to reach a gross revenue of $800,000 (*). This scenario also assumes a full practice, but the number of members needed to complete the panel is 400. This smaller member panel provides the physician with 4.8 hours of time per member. This allotment of time may be used to provide primary care services, interpret advanced labs, investigate symptoms, coordinate care and perform the required administrative work.

The good news is that both examples are flexible enough to fit your vision of care, but if the price in either of these models decreases the number of members needed to meet the $800,000 goal will also increase. So, start with designing the services you would like to provide, assign the appropriate amount of time to deliver the service and then determine which pricing scenario works for you.

(*)You can replace the $800,000 in gross revenue with your revenue needs and the formula will still work. It also doesn’t include any revenue from commercial insurance carriers.

Sonja Horner

sonjaIn 2010, Sonja co-founded n1Health the first company in the country to invest in membership based root-caused medical practices. During her time at n1Health, she was able to create experiences for physician partners and members that harnessed the power of personalized medicine by demonstrating disease regression. She is passionate about improving patient outcomes and believes that employers have a tremendous impact on healthcare. Recently, Concierge Medicine Today recognized Ms. Horner as an Industry Leading Women in the Business of Healthcare.

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Direct Primary Care Offers Affordability in Private Medicine

healthcare-costsPrivate medicine probably has a lot more to offer than you would imagine. Many people may think that only the wealthy can afford the personal attention offered through private medicine, but the truth is that it is an affordable approach to what is often considered better treatment.

As more and more people realize the efficacy of models such as direct primary care, more physicians are entering into the industry. Over the course of just the last decade, there has been rapid growth in the private medicine industry. The Heritage Foundation reports that in 2005, there were only 146 DPC physicians. Today, there are roughly 4,400.

There is good reason for the expansion:  The American Academy of Private Physicians notes that direct primary care is an innovative (fee-for-service) model for primary healthcare that is being welcomed and praised by patients, physicians and employers nationally.  Direct Primary Care (DPC) is an open model of private medicine care that provides superior health outcomes, lower costs and most importantly an exceptional doctor/patient experience.

Defining Direct Primary Care

Started roughly a decade ago, DPC was created to provide an insurance-free method for patients to receive medical treatment in a setting where doctors had fewer clients and more time to devote to individuals.

Initially, this largely benefitted the uninsured, who could would directly pay physicians in order to have access to care. However, the industry is now expanding to people who are interested in having a closer relationship with physicians. People who opt for DPC pay a monthly fee instead of an insurance company and in turn, they have access to a personal doctor.

Patient Benefits

In the DPC model, doctors have fewer patients, which means people can spend more time talking about their conditions or concerns. This provides for a more comprehensive way to prevent and treat issues, as physicians can review more than just someone’s symptoms. Doctors get a chance to understand a patient’s lifestyle and make decisions that target long-term well-being.

Other advantages of the DPC model include:

  • Extended hours
  • Immediate access to urgent care
  • The possibility of home visits, in some practices

DPC gets its name because patients directly pay the doctor and cut out the middleman: the insurance company. Therefore, physicians do not have to include overhead costs such as filing claims and coding when they bill. While that translates to a cost savings for patients, it also eliminates the incentives associated with insurance that often distort healthcare decision-making.

Additionally, the DPC model can be very affordable. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the average monthly fee for adults participating in the direct primary care model is between $50 and $60 a month, with even lower fees for children.

Physician Benefits

Patients are not the only people who benefit from the DPC model. As the AAFP points out, taking on fewer patients means having less exposure to risk and a smaller chance of committing medical errors. Through private medicine, doctors get to know their patients, including their medical histories. In traditional practices, medical records may be bounced around physicians and specialists, leaving room for mistakes.

Doctors who embrace the DPC model do not have to worry about the headache and costs of filing insurance claims and third-party-payer billing. Instead, they can focus on spending more time with their patients and making good decisions about treatment.

A Better Physician-Patient Relationship

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Care reports that in a typical fee-for-service model, the average doctor has 2,000 or more patients, which is why your appointment times are typically limited to 15 minutes. The agency notes that one doctor alone should not be tasked with so many patients.

One of the key reasons most people abandon the fee-for-service practice is because they want a more individualized experience. In direct primary care, patient panels can still be as high as about 1,500 patients for each doctor.

A Growing Trend

The growth in private medicine and specifically DPC may be attributed to a frustration with the third-party reimbursement system that so many traditional practices use. Also, patients and physicians are looking for the more satisfying experience that this model of care provides. As The Heritage Foundation notes, DPC can provide better, more comprehensive care for patients and create a better work environment for doctors.

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7 Tips for Opening a Successful Private Medicine Practice

If you are a physician that operates a traditional medical practice and you’re thinking about converting it to a shutterstock_75683590private medicine practice, or you’re a new primary care physician just starting out, there are a few things you should know to ensure that your practice is as successful as possible. Here are seven tips to help you get a bustling medical office up and running so you can meet your personal and financial goals.

1: Develop a Business Plan

As a healthcare provider you may not have thought that someday you would need to know the basics of opening and running a business, but if you’re a private doctor you definitely should be aware of basic business concepts. It starts with crafting a solid business plan that outlines:

  • Realistic and achievable revenue goals based on retainer fees
  • Patient recruitment and marketing strategies
  • Legal compliance
  • Benefits and services you plan to offer

2: Consider a Consultant

Private medicine is a lot different from traditional primary care models, and transitioning or opening a new office will present several challenges. A consulting firm that has helped other doctors make the same transition can identify some of these challenges in advance so you have a plan to avoid them altogether (when possible) or tackle them when they come up. Be sure to consult with the American Academy of Private Physicians for a list of practice conversion consultants working in the industry to begin your interviews.  Each consultant has a little different perspective and can offer different levels of guidance depending on your specific needs.

3: Train Your Team

A top-notch clinical team is critical to your success as a private physician. Not only do you need great doctors and nurses, you also need exceptional customer service staff. When people are paying extra for their medical care, they will expect a higher level of service and amazing people can help attract and retain your patients.

4: Educate Your Patients

Many patients are not aware of the differences between private medicine and traditional primary care offices. Without proper education patients will only see that joining your practice requires a monthly or annual retainer fee, while going to a traditional doctor requires no up-front payments. In that case they are likely to choose the lower-cost option (particularly if they have insurance and pay little to nothing out of pocket for care). Instead you need to present the value and benefits that a private medical practice can offer so they see the return on investment. If you have existing patients, educating them early and often can prevent a mass exodus from your practice when you make the transition.

5: Market Your Business

You might not be a marketing expert, but operating a successful private physician practice requires that you have expert marketing. You must create a brand, which includes the basics like a professional logo and tagline, but also develop a message explaining what sets you apart from other physicians. Don’t skimp in this area or try to wing it—people can identify amateur-looking brands, and will often avoid these businesses.

Once you logo and tagline are established and you have created a basic message, the next critical step is to set up a professional and strategic website. Consider hiring a marketing firm to help with any or all of these steps if you are unsure about where to start or what exactly to do.

6: Network with Other Private Physicians

Converting your practice to a private doctor’s office is a long process that can be daunting and lonely at times. Joining a professional organization, such as the American Academy of Private Physicians, can help you find doctors who have been through the same things you are experiencing right now and offer you networking opportunities and advice to succeed.

Trade association annual conference attendance can not only provide tremendous networking opportunities but valued, educational programming that will help you and your practice with understanding new compliance rules. You will also be introduced to emerging technology in the medical industry and educational tracks highlighting industry professionals speaking on emerging trends and best practices. Topics range from conversions of a practice, direct primary care practices and concierge/private medicine practices.

7: Develop a Sustainable Model

Just because you start out with a successful practice doesn’t mean it will remain successful forever. The reality for all doctors, both private and traditional, is that patients will come and go. They may have a change in their income that prevents them from paying for boutique medical services, or they may just decide that they don’t get enough benefit. Patients move away and pass away, so your clientele is constantly evolving. In order to remain viable in the long-term it’s important that you are continually marketing and promoting your practice to keep a steady stream of patients. It’s a tricky balance, though, because part of private medicine is keeping patient load at a manageable level so you can provide adequate attention to each patient. Finding that balance and sustaining it is critical for the future.

Follow these steps to make sure your transition to private medicine is as smooth and successful as possible.

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Dispelling the Myths About ‘Concierge Medicine’

private-physicianAs the healthcare landscape continues to shift many people have perceptions about certain things that are just not accurate. Concierge medicine is a perfect example of this—a service that was once provided almost exclusively to wealthy clients has changed dramatically in the past 10 years to include more and more options that are affordable for anyone. Despite that fact, there are still a lot of myths and negative connotations associated with concierge medicine, but we’re here to dispel some of the most common ones.

Myth #1: Patients can’t afford private medicine

The Truth: It is true that when you use terms like “concierge medicine” or “boutique medicine” they invoke an image of something elite, something reserved for the wealthy. But the truth is that the average monthly fees to belong to a private medicine practice today are surprisingly affordable at around $130-$150 a month. While there are still some concierge doctors that charge retainer fees as high as several thousand dollars a month, most people could easily afford to be part of a private doctor’s practice, even on a tight budget.

Myth #2: There isn’t much difference between concierge and traditional doctors

The Truth: Patients who pay to belong to a private physician’s practice should expect that they will get a higher level of care. In fact, since doctors are able to significantly reduce patient volumes they can pay more attention to each patient and offer more individualized care. Many private doctors also offer several “perks” in exchange for monthly or annual retainer fees. Some of the common added benefits include:

  • Longer appointment times, spending 30 minutes or more with each patient
  • The ability to schedule an appointment the same day or the next day
  • Comprehensive disease management and wellness initiatives
  • Coordination of services if you ever need to get hospital or specialty care
  • Extensive annual check-up that covers several different areas of physical and mental well-being
  • Access to the physician day or night via email, cell phone, or social media to ask questions and get advice

Myth #3: Concierge doctors are just interested in getting rich

The Truth: Most doctors who decide to transition to private medicine have become burned out or disillusioned with the state of primary healthcare in America today. Doctors that carry patient loads of 2,000-4,000 patients (which is average) can only dedicate 10-15 minutes with each patient and must cycle through several dozen patients every day just to keep up with overhead costs. When they are able to reduce their patient volume to just 10-20 percent of that average by opening a concierge practice, they can reignite the passion that made them want to become doctors in the first place.

In fact, several studies show that concierge physicians earn about the same annual income as their traditional primary care peers, even with an 80 percent reduction in the total number of patients they see. This is often because they can eliminate as much as 40 percent of overhead costs by removing the need to bill insurance companies for basic care, and can supplement the remainder of their lost income with the retainer fees.

Myth #4: Concierge medicine can’t be legal or ethical

The Truth: Private medicine is growing in popularity because it is both a legal and ethical way for doctors to provide care to patients. Private medicine patients elect to pay a fee for the services they receive, and in exchange the doctor can dedicate more time to each patient and provide comprehensive care centered around overall health and wellness. It is important that doctors pay close attention to their finances, ensuring they are not billing insurance companies for services covered under the retainer fees (which would be double-billing, and would be considered illegal). From an ethical perspective, while there is a shortage of primary care doctors, it is not the responsibility of one single physician to meet the needs of everyone. Instead it is important that physicians provide the best possible care to whatever patient level they can adequately treat.

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