Considering Concierge Medicine? Avoid The Top 5 Mistakes Patients Make
Are you close to choosing a concierge medicine practice? If so, we want that decision to go perfectly for you. That’s why we’re big proponents of double-checking a practice’s fit, and your expectations, before you squiggle your signature on the dotted line.
We’ve rounded up a handful of mistakes we hope you avoid as you finalize your choice on the practice for you.
1. Sign a Contract for Concierge Medicine You Didn’t Read
It’s not exactly that hot new novel you’ve heard about, but your contract is essential reading. Make sure you understand what it promises, from access to your doctor to the perks included in your membership, so you know what to expect once you’ve joined the practice and how to get the most value out of your investment.
Pay attention to the section about termination (or ending the contract). Getting into a contract doesn’t have to be an overwhelming commitment — so long as you have freedom to leave if and when you need. Even if you’re sure to love this practice, a relocation or change in your financial situation might prompt you to bring the relationship to a close.
Make sure you know the length of the contract. Is it a full year, month-to-month, or something else? If you’ve prepaid for a full year or for a quarter, the practice might give back a prorated amount for your unused time, but you need to check. Also, learn how much notice the medical practice will need from you. For instance, PartnerMD asks for 30 days written notice, with no fees or other catches.
Of course you want to be certain this practice works with your insurance. You also need to know how the practice handles unexpected changes in coverage. Some practices, ours included, offer a direct-pay option if you have a coverage lapse.
If you have any questions about what’s in the contract for your concierge medical practice of choice, make sure you speak up. Understanding what you’re getting into and how to get out will ensure that you have accurate expectations for your partnership right from the beginning.
2. Confuse Care Access For Physician Access
Access is one of the buzzwords and big promises of concierge care. But for each practice, this may mean something a little different. It’s important to know what access means for the practice you’re choosing to be sure that the practice is able to deliver what you want.
On the most basic level, know who you’ll see regularly. Is it strictly one doctor? Is it a panel, or team, of doctors? Will a physician’s assistant handle any parts of your visit?
Along these lines, find out how the practice manages after-hours care. Will you have direct access to a physician or will you reach a nurse line? On one end of the spectrum, some practices use a third-party service to triage calls, while at the other end, some practices may provide patients with a direct line to their doctor’s mobile phone. Most concierge practices land somewhere in the middle.
These different models and levels of access can impact your experience as a patient and/or the price of your membership. There’s no one way or best way to go about it, but you should be aware of how the practice is set up and whether or not that works for you.
3. Insist on a Specific Concierge Doctor
Concierge doctors see significantly fewer patients. That’s good in the sense that they can provide more attentive care. But it also means they can’t take on as many incoming people. Make sure your expectations aren’t too tied to a specific physician.
If your first choice of doctor is not available to take new patients, learn about other doctors on staff. It’s likely that the practice hired each of its doctors in part because of cultural fit in addition to skill — these physicians have shared values. There shouldn’t be a night-and-day difference from one doctor to the next.
Talk with a membership representative. Share your criteria for a doctor. Then see how many available physicians have the personality and background you want. Most practices let you join a doctor’s wait list, should a spot open up with your particular favorite. But we think you have a good chance at developing a long relationship with the physician your practice matches you with.
4. Fail to Use Your FSA or HSA Benefits
Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Savings Accounts don’t cover your membership fees but they do cover your medical expenses. The key is to plan when and where you want to apply your spending account — maximizing your tax break.
Look at how often you plan to see your doctor and figure any copay costs into your strategy. Keep in mind that you may spend less in copays than you first anticipate, because concierge doctors sometimes help by phone or email, saving you a trip to the office. Or, you might be paying a little more, as going to the doctor becomes hassle-free, you might be more likely to see your doctor more frequently. Also remember that some membership perks, like the health coaching we offer, can replace what you might be paying for a personal trainer or nutrition counselor and provide a receipt that can be submitted for reimbursement to your FSA or HSA.
What’s the big point here? You may have to tinker with your HSA or FSA strategy as you develop habits for using your membership and its perks. But at least go into your membership having some strategy, so you don’t leave tax breaks unused.
5. Let Your Membership Go Unused
Membership in a concierge medical practice is not unlike a gym membership. Both are an investment in your future self. And both will do you no good at all if you don’t use the membership. If you go through the process of learning about concierge medicine and committing to a practice, it’s no time to let your membership sit unused.
This final stage before signing a contract is about more than double-checking the concierge practice. It’s about double-checking yourself. Get yourself in the right frame of mind to use the program’s perks — to participate in classes, set goals for your health, and communicate with your doctor.
It’s important to find the right practice and to review your contract. But once you do, if the fit is there, then embrace the plan and sign with confidence.
Want to learn more about PartnerMD before you put an end to this search and pen your name? Come in and meet with a PartnerMD doctor. Click here to get started.