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Concierge Medicine 101: What is it? How does it work?

Concierge Medicine

Concierge medicine. Membership medicine. Boutique medicine. You may have heard any of these names and wondered what the difference is among them and what this type of care really means.

Regardless of what it’s called, concierge medicine has core elements that define the difference in care models between concierge medicine and traditional practices.

What is the definition of concierge medicine? 

We hear it all the time. What is concierge medicine? At its core, the concierge medicine definition is as follows:

  • An alternative primary care model built on a better relationship between physician and patient without the hassles of the traditional primary care experience.

Concierge medicine can take many forms, but in general, the meaning of concierge medicine is primary care physicians see far fewer patients than traditional primary care physicians and spend more time with each patient.

Male concierge doctor chatting with patient

How does concierge medicine work? 

So, how does the concierge medicine model work, exactly?

  1. A primary care physician reduces the size of their patient panel, from as many as 2,000-3,000 patients to somewhere between 400-600. 
  2. To offset the medical revenue lost from drastically reducing the number of patients seen, the patients are charged a membership fee. 
  3. In return, they receive a more individualized, convenient patient experience than that of a traditional practice. 

This patient experience typically includes:

  • Same-day or next-day appointments for acute care
  • 24/7 access to care
  • Longer appointments, typically at least 30 minutes if needed
  • Little to no waiting in lobbies or exam rooms

Those are the basics featured at most concierge medicine practices. Some practices go above and beyond that and offer advanced annual physicals, wellness services and health coaching, and more. 

At the end of the day, concierge medicine is about removing all obstacles to personalized care and giving physicians and patients more time together to form meaningful relationships.

Female concierge doctor with arms crossed looking at camera

How much does concierge medicine cost?

When concierge medicine started, it was geared toward the rich. Two physicians started the concierge medicine model in 1996 when they wanted to provide the same experience to patients that they gave to players on the NBA's Seattle Supersonics.

However, as concierge medicine's popularity has grown since then, the cost has become much more affordable.

There is quite a range in concierge membership rates, from $1,200 to as high as $10,000 per year. For those still charging $10,000 or more per year, we'd call that luxury medicine or VIP medicine. You'll hear about those practices in places with the mega-rich and celebrities, like New York or Los Angeles (Hollywood).

The average cost of concierge medicine is usually somewhere between $1,500-$2,500 per year. At PartnerMD, our membership costs between $2,300-$2,500 per year for the first adult, and we transparently include the cost of our membership on our online cost calculator

Some practices allow you to pay monthly or quarterly instead of just one big annual lump sum. So you may have a monthly or quarterly automatic credit card payment or automatic withdrawal ranging from $100 to $250 per month.

Why do patients switch to concierge medicine?  

Why do patients choose concierge medicine? As a concierge medicine that has helped thousands of patients make the switch over the years, we've identified a few themes. Here are the top five reasons patients choose concierge medicine

  1. They are a high achiever and enjoy the individualized care concierge medicine offers.
  2. They have an existing condition that requires attentive care.
  3. They experience a medical scare that creates urgency.
  4. They’re done waiting.
  5. They want peace of mind – for themselves or their loved ones (or both).

Male concierge doctor smiling at camera

Why are doctors going to concierge medicine?

What started with two doctors in Seattle in 1996 has grown to more than 12,000 concierge physicians today. Why? Because, like patients, doctors are fed up with the traditional primary care model.

As a concierge practice that has grown from one physician to more than 30, we've also identified a few themes about why physicians switch to concierge medicine. Here they are:

  1. They want to practice medicine the way they envisioned.
  2. They're tired of running the traditional primary care business. 
  3. They are burned out. 

Is concierge medicine right for you?

If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re considering concierge medicine. Before you make the decision to join a concierge practice, it's best to step back and consider your current health care experience.

Perhaps you can identify one of many signs that it's time to find a new primary care physician

Once you’ve decided it’s time to make a switch, it’s time to talk with physicians. Finding the right physician is paramount to ensuring you get the care you want.

Make an appointment to speak with potential physicians and ask questions about their approach to care, their interest in forming meaningful relationships with their patients, and services and benefits offered at their practices.

While concierge medicine is still growing in interest, the factors driving its growth don’t appear to be subsiding in the near future.

If you’re feeling unhappy with your care, it might be time to look into a model that seeks to turn the service clock back to a time when physicians had enough time to know more than your chart number.

Want to learn more about the fundamentals of concierge medicine? Download our free Understanding Concierge Medicine eBook.

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