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Understanding Concierge Medicine

What is it? How do you know it's right for you? What is the PartnerMD approach?

What is Concierge Medicine?

When you hear the word “concierge,” a hotel concierge might come to mind — that person who provides assistance designed specifically for a particular hotel guest.

Excellent hotel concierges tend to have repeat customers because of the relationships they build. Guests trust the concierge’s recommendations since the concierge takes the time to get to know the guests personally—their likes, dislikes, and so forth.

At its heart, concierge medicine functions similarly: it’s about building a personal relationship between physician and patient — a relationship that keeps the patient’s specific wellness needs in mind along with their likes, dislikes, goals, and dreams.

If you’re new to the concept, the definition might be surprising, even revelatory. In its infancy, concierge medicine served the wealthy, but that’s no longer the case, thanks in part to more and more people demanding better patient-doctor relationships and increased control over their own health outcomes.

Not to mention that physicians are embracing the model as well so that they can practice medicine the way they’d always envisioned — by developing a better, stronger relationship with each patient.

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When you hear the word “concierge,” a hotel concierge might come to mind — that person who provides assistance designed specifically for a particular hotel guest.

Excellent hotel concierges tend to have repeat customers because of the relationships they build. Guests trust the concierge’s recommendations since the concierge takes the time to get to know the guests personally—their likes, dislikes, and so forth.

At its heart, concierge medicine functions similarly: it’s about building a personal relationship between physician and patient — a relationship that keeps the patient’s specific wellness needs in mind along with their likes, dislikes, goals, and dreams.

If you’re new to the concept, the definition might be surprising, even revelatory. In its infancy, concierge medicine served the wealthy, but that’s no longer the case, thanks in part to more and more people demanding better patient-doctor relationships and increased control over their own health outcomes.

Not to mention that physicians are embracing the model as well so that they can practice medicine the way they’d always envisioned — by developing a better, stronger relationship with each patient.

Concierge Medicine Fast Facts

PartnerMD personal care

Doesn’t Traditional Medicine Provide Customized, Personal Care?

That’s a fair question. And if you harken back to the days of doctor house calls (Forbes reports that house calls used to make up 40 percent of U.S. doctors’ visits in the 1940s), then yes — medicine certainly had a more focused, personal feel. But all that has changed.

Today, a typical primary care physician (PCP) manages 3,000+ patients a year, while a concierge physician typically manages fewer than 600. As you can imagine, it’s much easier to deliver more personalized care and develop meaningful relationships with 600 patients rather than 3,000.

PartnerMD personal care
PartnerMD Doctor

“PartnerMD allows me to take a more integrative approach to patient care. More time with the patient means we can focus on diet, exercise, and gut health. A 15-minute appointment just doesn’t allow for deep conversation into the “Hows & Whys” of a recommended treatment, let alone to follow up, see what’s working, and make adjustments.”

—Dr. Robert Norris, PartnerMD

PartnerMD Doctor
PartnerMD

A Practice by Many Other Names

Concierge medicine goes by many other names, including retainer medicine, membership medicine, subscription-based medicine, and boutique medicine, among others. Hybrid models exist as well.

The most important thing to keep in mind as you evaluate different options is that not all concierge practices are the same. Terms, costs, and benefits vary widely.

Finding the right fit is essential, one that you’ll likely base on a combination of subjective factors (for example, “I had a good feeling about this doctor”) and objective ones (for example, “The fees work with my finances”).

PartnerMD

Concierge Medicine:
A Better Model for Patients and Doctors

Imagine this: You’ve decided you want to be proactive regarding your health, one of the biggest reasons why people choose concierge medicine. You want to catch issues before they become full-blown problems. You want to get that mole checked, address your blood pressure, dive deep into nutrition, and put the same effort into aging well as you do with your retirement plan and the partnership you’ve built with your financial advisor.

In other words, you’re READY. So you make the call to your PCP’s office, eager to get going, only to discover their schedule is a lot different from yours. As in, you’re going to need to wait before you can get an appointment. And wait. And maybe wait some more.

Sadly, this isn’t unusual.

According to a 2017 survey of physician appointment wait times, “it now takes an average of 24 days to schedule a new patient physician appointment in 15 of the largest cities in the U.S.” Seeing specialists for non-emergency issues can rival that—and take longer in some cases.

Wait times are stressful for patients. When you have an ailment — or you simply want to address a concern or ask questions — waiting can wreak havoc on your psyche, with all those “what ifs” going through your head. Sometimes the hardest call to make is that first one to a doctor. So when you actually do call, only to discover you might need to wait upwards of a month or more — well, that can certainly take the wind out of your sails, right?

Doctors feel the effects of this crammed schedule as well but in a different way. As mentioned earlier, a typical PCP might be managing a roster of 3,000 patients, which can result in 25-40 patient visits per day. As such, many physicians in the U.S. feel stressed, overworked, and frustrated, since they can’t deliver the type of care they would like to, simply because there isn’t enough time to do so.

Petrizzi PartnerMD

“PartnerMD’s practice model gives physicians more time with their patients. This is so important to me because I went into family practice so I could treat my patients like family. And I never rush family.”

— Dr. Mark Petrizzi, PartnerMD

Petrizzi PartnerMD

In fact, a Medscape annual survey noted, “42 percent of physicians reported that they were burned out."

Many factors contribute to physician burnout including clerical burden (for example, completing tasks in electronic health records – EHRs), alert fatigue (for example, the overwhelming amount of data and notices that come in each day), and “decision fatigue,” which Becker’s Hospital Review describes as “The more choices a person makes throughout the day, the more challenging each one becomes for the brain.”

The concierge model essentially eliminates patient wait time and decreases physician burnout because it turns the traditional model on its head.

In a concierge practice, a doctor’s roster is usually no more than 600 patients (and, in some practices, far fewer). This means patients can get in to see their doctor right away. At the same time, concierge physicians have a much more manageable 6-10 patient visits per day.

Concierge Medicine and the Affordability Question

All of the above probably sounds great, but we know what you’re thinking: It also sounds expensive. Here’s what you need to know regarding costs.

For all concierge practices, you pay a membership fee. This membership fee might be called another name, such as a “retainer,” and payment terms can vary as well — you might pay monthly, quarterly, or annually. 

Here’s where things can deviate further, based on the practice. Some practices won’t bill health insurance companies. In other words, you pay for everything on your own, with your own cash. You’d pay your membership fee (which typically covers office visits and services from your doctor). And you’d pay for lab work, X-rays, specialists, prescriptions, and so forth — all out of your own pocket.

Other concierge practices will accept health insurance. So your membership fee will cover the wonderful benefits that concierge medicine provides, such as better access to your doctor, but your health insurance will cover other services and procedures.

In this model, the concierge practice works like traditional primary care, meaning your health insurance company is billed for services, and you are required to make your co-pay/meet your deductible. Some aspects of your concierge care might also be payable using your employer's HSA or FSA

PartnerMD

How much does concierge medicine cost?

Since its launch in 1996, the cost of concierge medicine has come down significantly. Yes, you will continue to hear about the outlier, like the so-called “elite” practice that costs $20,000 or more a year, but most concierge practices cost considerably less.

Concierge Medicine Today says, “Annual fees range from $1,200-$3,000 nationally. We believe that about 80% of the concierge physician community falls within this price range.”

At PartnerMD, our fees definitely fall in this range. In fact, our patients report that our fees are typically less than their monthly cable/internet or family phone bills.

PartnerMD

PartnerMD: Costs & Health Insurance

When you choose PartnerMD, you pay a membership fee, which covers all the benefits our practice has to offer. We also work with and bill your health insurance company. You are responsible for co-pays/deductibles, but your health insurance will cover the costs of approved services/procedures, just as it would if you were seeing a traditional PCP.

PartnerMD accepts most health insurance plans. Some companies, like Kaiser, restrict access to network doctors only. We are one of only a few concierge programs that accepts Medicare and Tricare. This is an extension of our guiding philosophy that regular access to a doctor is a vital component of everyone’s health and wellbeing, not merely a benefit for the wealthy.

Our membership fees vary by office and are typically around $150 to $175 per month for the first adult member. Additional adult members can be added to your account at lower rates. Prices for dependent children up to age 25 range from about $50 to $75 per month.

You can pay your membership fee annually, quarterly, or monthly, and you can cancel at any time with 30 days written notice.

Ferguson PartnerMD

“Our focus is on preventive and holistic care, and that is the same reason that I first began in primary care, and the reason I returned to my roots.”

— Dr. Jennifer Ferguson, PartnerMD

Ferguson PartnerMD

Preventive Medicine is the Best Kind of Medicine

Ask any doctor (concierge, PCP, specialist) what they think is essential to a person’s overall wellness, and they will likely talk about the importance of preventive medicine and taking a proactive approach to one’s health.

Yet in the traditional healthcare landscape, this isn’t a realistic quest. Think about it: how often do you see your PCP? For a yearly physical (most likely) and when you’re sick. While you might certainly discuss preventive measures — exercising more, watching your weight, etc. — during your physical, what happens after you walk out of your PCP’s office?

Does your doctor follow up to discuss how your new meal plan is going — and offer ideas for adjustments?

Does your doctor take your calls and answer your emails when you want to discuss the pros/cons of CrossFit vs. yoga for your wellness goals?

Does your doctor reach out to you first because they saw a new cookbook they thought might help you on your journey to adopt a plant-based diet?

The answer is likely no. The above would be practically unheard of in a typical PCP setting because there simply aren’t enough hours in the day for PCPs to perform this sort of follow-up care — no matter how much many of them would like to do so.

PartnerMD

But prevention takes time. It takes planning. It takes research, dialogue, follow-up visits, and adjustments as new info comes in and your life changes.

PartnerMD

Here’s the thing: preventive medicine isn’t a once-a-year discussion. Heck, you get the oil changed in your car several times a year to prevent the engine from seizing. Shouldn’t preventive medicine involve more visits and follow-up visits with your doctor?

The short answer: yes, it should.

This goes back to issues with the current U. S. healthcare system: in its current form, it has to focus on reacting to illness and disease rather than prevention.

Why? Well, reactions can take place quickly — in those 10-minute appointment “windows” that PCPs have blocked out for each patient every hour.

But prevention takes time. It takes planning. It takes research, dialogue, follow-up visits, and adjustments as new info comes in and your life changes.

For us at PartnerMD, prevention is the ultimate goal, and our concierge model supports this goal: patients have greater access to their PartnerMD physicians, and our physicians have the time and space to work closely with each patient over the long term.

The PartnerMD Approach to Concierge Medicine

Our name says it all: your PartnerMD physician is your partner, one who helps you achieve optimal wellness. But you play an important role, too. After all, it’s your life, your health, your wellbeing. You direct, and your physician works with you, guides you using proven as well as newer modalities, and cheers you on as you reach and maintain your goals.

Here’s How We Do Concierge Medicine:

  • Active listening. Your PartnerMD physician wants to hear what you have to say. He or she will listen, ask thoughtful questions, carefully observe, and listen some more.

  • Unrushed office visits. You and your doctor have plenty of time to talk, learn, and brainstorm. Appointments typically last 30 minutes and start on time. Same or next day appointments are always available for acute care.

  • Better access. PartnerMD physicians are available after hours, on weekends, and holidays.

  • Dedicated focus in between office visits. Thanks to a significantly smaller patient roster, your PartnerMD physician has time to focus on your health and wellness long after you’ve left the office. Think more time to complete notes and paperwork, more time to research and learn new techniques and technologies, more time to think, and more time to oversee your specialist care and manage your prescriptions.

  • Responsive communication. Have you ever been in a situation where someone says, “Feel free to reach out any time,” but you know they don’t mean it? Guess what? Our doctors mean it. Reach out with your questions, thoughts, concerns, obstacles, and victories. They respond quickly, smartly, and compassionately.

  • A health coach in addition to your PartnerMD physician. Two brains are better than one, right? You’ll have access to a certified health coach as part of your PartnerMD membership. Your health coach will help you set and meet wellness goals. Our health coaches serve as excellent adjuncts to our PartnerMD physicians.

  • A whole person approach. The physical and emotional, the brain and the heart, the mind, and the soul — all these things work together, and when one is out of balance, it can throw everything else out of whack. Our physicians take a holistic view of each patient, understanding the big picture, before delving into the specifics.

  • Bonus benefits. Benefits include access to advanced testing, screening, and diagnostics (such as genetic markers); access to our partnerships with registered dietitians and physical therapists; free wellness seminars throughout the year; and more. We also have package pricing for families (yes, your whole family can enjoy the benefits of concierge medicine, including children over 12).

Is PartnerMD Right for You?

PartnerMD members can answer “yes” to every question below. Can you?

A single “no” could be all the motivation you need to consider the difference a concierge medical practice like PartnerMD can make in your life.

Ready to develop a true relationship with a PartnerMD physician?

Relationships begin with a conversation. We invite you to visit your local PartnerMD office for a tour, to meet your care team, and to have a conversation with one of our physicians. There’s no cost and no obligation for this visit, and it can be done either virtually or in person.

It’s simply an opportunity to see what we’re all about and what it feels like to have a personal physician who wants to get to know you, not just your symptoms.

Ready to develop a true relationship with a PartnerMD physician?

Relationships begin with a conversation. We invite you to visit your local PartnerMD office for a tour, to meet your care team, and to have a conversation with one of our physicians. There’s no cost and no obligation for this visit, and it can be done either virtually or in person.

It’s simply an opportunity to see what we’re all about and what it feels like to have a personal physician who wants to get to know you, not just your symptoms.