Many of us are fed up with the way our family physicians operate. It can be hard to get a timely appointment, and when you do, you still have to wait in their waiting room for uncomfortably long periods of time. Unfortunately, that’s just the beginning of the process. Then, you have to tell the nurse all of the personal details that you came to tell the doctor while you wait for the doctor to arrive. Once he (or she) is there, it becomes instantly obvious that they are trying to do their job in the shortest possible amount of time. Usually, a doctor will be able to half-listen to you, half-diagnose your issue, and write you a prescription in only 10 of the 15 minutes of his time that you were scheduled to occupy.
Now, I realize that highly skilled physicians are always in short supply and they always have many, many clients that need their help. Their payment-per-service approach is the overwhelming standard, but some doctors are now instead offering their services on a contract basis. This business model is more expensive to the client, but those clients benefit by having a practicing physician who attends to far fewer the overall amount of patients.
A contract, or “concierge” physician, typically does not accept insurance, unless they are giving you a special test such as an MRI or a biopsy. Depending on where you live and which doctor you choose, the annual contract for an individual can cost from $1,500 to $15,000. The median annual cost for such contracts is in the $6,000 range. These annual fees cover any services you may need while in the care of that doctor. So, you can see that these doctors are paid more on a per-patient basis, which allows them to keep fewer patients total.
How does that translate into a better experience for you, the patient who is considering a pricey concierge physician contract? For starters, your doctor will have the time that is needed to fully understand your health issues. If your doctor must refer you to a specialist, they can accompany you to your appointment. This is very significant, because many patients report a feeling of uncertainty after a visit with a specialist other than their primary care provider. I suspect that the language used by two different doctors, even when they are essentially saying the same thing, is confusing to the layman’s ears and can sound like conflicting information. Having your primary doctor accompany you on your visit to a specialist solves that problem because your doctor will make sure you understand everything. Beyond that, concierge doctors have been known to accompany patients to the emergency room to make sure they are taken care of promptly, if their situation is time-sensitive.
All told, the benefits of hiring a concierge physician more than make up for the extra cost, if you have the means. If you frequently make trips to the doctor or you are not insured, you may even save money with this approach by paying a flat annual rate.