For Members Only: Concierge Medicine

Concierge medicine, also sometimes called boutique medicine, is a health care arrangement whereby the patient pays a board-certified physician a monthly or annual retainer fee for specified services. It used to be available only to wealthy patients, but concierge medicine has become more affordable in recent years. The annual membership costs can run to $10,000 a year. These fees are not covered by insurance, although in some cases, health savings accounts and flexible savings accounts may be able to cover the costs.

A concierge doctor provides the same services as does a primary care physician, such as ordering and reviewing lab work, conducting annual exams or diagnostic screenings, and providing minor urgent care. However, they cannot provide services for major medical procedures like surgery.

What are the benefits for the patient?

From the patient’s perspective, concierge medicine has multiple benefits not available at a traditional practice. One benefit is greater access to the doctor through same-day appointments and communication by email or phone. Some concierge doctors provide telephone or video consultations so that you do not need to even go to the office. With a limited number of patients, the doctor can devote more time to building relationships with their patients.

Another benefit is that the fee includes annual physical and preventive screenings as well as unlimited primary care visits. If you have a chronic condition that requires frequent visits to the doctor, you might want to add concierge service to your health care mix, especially if you have a high deductible.

What are the downsides?

If you have a medical condition that requires being seen by a specialist, you still will need medical insurance to cover the additional costs not covered by the concierge fees. If you need to fill prescriptions, be hospitalized or undergo surgery, there is no substitute for medical insurance.

As stated before, the cost for retaining a concierge doctor can come with a steep price tag. While the annual fees have come down in recent years, the additional cost may not be practical for people in good health who rarely see a doctor.

Another downside is that many Americans live in areas where there is a shortage of concierge doctors. At this point, some practices have already reached the maximum number of patients they are able to serve.

Any other options?

If you feel that neither a traditional practice nor a concierge practice is right for you, there are other options to consider:

  • Virtual health care. With so many people working from home, more doctors are offering primary care services online.
  • Direct primary care. Similar to concierge medicine, in the DPC model, the patient pays the physician directly for a set menu of services.
  • Large health care network. Usually run by hospitals or a coalition of physicians, these large health care networks provide a considerable number of treatment options but lack the personal care of a concierge physician.

If you choose a concierge doctor for your health care needs, be an informed patient and make sure you know exactly what services will be covered by the annual retainer.

Reach out to Roz Carothers and her team at Triplett & Carothers to learn more.