The way medical treatment is sought, offered, and given has been rapidly changing across the United States for decades, but perhaps even more so in recent years. We’ve seen the fundamental shift from patient-driven care by physicians to a model that’s largely driven by insurance companies and dictated by the government. With the emergence of concierge medicine, it’s no longer a question of will there be yet another dramatic shift, but rather, how concierge medicine is changing healthcare now, and what we can expect as the practice grows.
What is Concierge Medicine
Concierge-style medicine differs from the traditional practice in many ways. First and foremost, patients don’t generally pay for each visit. Instead, they pay a monthly retainer fee, in return, receive access to their physician at virtually any time. This may mean a patient can pop in for routine treatment or preventative care by appointment as needed, or simply speak with their physician via phone, email, or text. Oftentimes, doctors who run these practices cater to their patients more than others, offering better amenities and comfort measures.
How Concierge Medicine is Changing Healthcare
Better Patient Relationships
Although physicians are already well-known for keeping patients waiting in lobbies and for their rushed bedside manner, the degree to which patient care is suffering is expected to grow due to the insurance-based model. Nowadays, it’s common for people to be limited to only one or a handful of physicians based on their insurance policy, which means that the doctors who accept certain plans become overworked trying to accommodate everyone. Even doctors who participate in insurance groups that are accepted by most physicians are impacted by the recent changes. People who are forced into purchasing insurance are using it for their preventative needs, which is a good thing overall, but it also taxes the existing system because there is a shortage of physicians.
Physicians who choose to use the concierge-style model see fewer patients in a day and keep their practices smaller. Because of this, they have more time to spend with individual patients and can ensure that a person’s needs are fully met and all questions are answered.
Naturally, spending more time with each patient means that the physician really gets to know each patient, and is no longer reliant on scanning chart notes before hurriedly running into a room, and this leads to better care overall. However, one of the other major drawbacks to the insurance-led model is that insurance companies often wind up dictating what level of care and what medications are right. This is a serious problem because insurance companies, by their very nature, must focus on keeping their costs low, so they routinely deny patients necessary treatments and medications simply because they’re not “covered benefits.”
With concierge-style care, there is no middleman deciding what’s right. It’s purely a doctor-patient relationship, and the two work together to define treatment options. Moreover, the extra time physicians have with their patients enables them to work on wellness as a whole, not just treat illnesses as they come up.
Potential to Reduce Costs
Data from the CDC indicates that about 40% of people who have private insurance are on high-deductible plans. That means they must pay at least $1,300 for themselves or $2,600 for their families before insurance begins to kick in. The growth of high-deductible plans coincided with the rise in insurance premiums, and essentially flatlined the hike in premium expenses, but it also makes it harder for people to get care when they need it. With this in mind, a healthy non-smoking 50-year-old has the potential to save nearly $2,000 per year by doing away with a high deductible plan and switching to a concierge-style practice.
Of course, there are other things to consider, such as catastrophic situations, hospital care, emergency care, and specialist care, but the initial savings alone, which is often paired with reduced prescription costs, can make switching to concierge medicine a smart fiscal decision, in addition to a wise one for those concerned about quality of care.
Is Concierge Medicine Right for You?
Concierge medicine is ideal for anyone who wants to have a solid relationship with their physician in a comfortable environment and would like to focus on total wellness, rather than simply treating health concerns as they creep up. At Dedication Health, we do this and pair it with an elite level of service, always putting our patients and their families first. If you’d like to learn more about our practice or are interested in becoming a member, contact us via our online form or call 847-986-6770 to speak with Christine, our practice manager.