PartnerMD welcomes Dr. Catherine Dekle to our Sandy Springs Office.

What is concierge medicine?

What does it mean? How is it different? How do you know it's right for you? 

Your Guide to Understanding Concierge Medicine

The first concierge medicine practice was started in Seattle in 1996. The model has only been around 25 years, so it's not surprising that many people still have questions about concierge medicine.

As a leading concierge medicine practice since 2003, we've been answering these questions from patients for years. And we're more than happy to answer them for you, too. Questions like: 

  • What is concierge medicine? 
  • How is it different than traditional primary care? 
  • How is it better than traditional primary care? 
  • How much does it cost?
  • Am I a good fit? 

And probably many more. 

Keep reading below to find all the answers, or download a free copy of our Understanding Concierge Medicine Guide to read on your own time.

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No time to read this right now? Download the PDF.

The first concierge medicine practice was started in Seattle in 1996. The model has only been around 25 years, so it's not surprising that many people still have questions about concierge medicine.

As a leading concierge medicine practice since 2003, we've been answering these questions from patients for years. And we're more than happy to answer them for you, too. Questions like: 

  • What is concierge medicine? 
  • How is it different than traditional primary care? 
  • How is it better than traditional primary care? 
  • How much does it cost?
  • Am I a good fit? 

And probably many more. 

Keep reading below to find all the answers, or download a free copy of our Understanding Concierge Medicine Guide to read on your own time.

scroll-down-icon-scrolling-mouse-symbol-for-web-design-isolated-on-vector-id1169785614

 

Understanding Concierge Medicine: Table of Contents

What is concierge medicine?

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So, what exactly is concierge medicine?

Concierge medicine is a relationship between a patient and a primary care physician in which the patient pays a fee, often referred to as a membership fee.

At its heart, concierge medicine is 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.

The membership fee enables this personal relationship to form by allowing doctors to drastically shrink their panel size, usually from somewhere between 3,000-4,000 to somewhere between 500-600.

In return, patients get a hassle-free primary care experience. Most concierge medical practices offer:

  • Longer appointments (at least 30 minutes)
  • Same-day or next-day appointments
  • Little to no waiting in lobbies
  • 24/7 access to care

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.

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What is typically included in a concierge medicine membership?

What's included in a concierge medicine membership varies from practice to practice. Generally, you'll see some form of these three features:

1. Enhanced access to a primary care physician.

  • Includes features like longer appointments, same-day or next-day acute care visits, little to no waiting in the office, and 24/7 access to care.
  • The most standard form of concierge medicine.

2. Advanced Physicals

3. Wellness

  • Compared to primary care and advanced physicals, wellness services are much less frequent in concierge medicine.
  • Wellness could mean a lot of things. It's quite abstract. It could be anything from a doctor who focuses on wellness as a concept to relationships with third-party wellness resources to on-site health coaches and dedicated wellness programs. 
  • At PartnerMD, we’ve made wellness services and access to health coaches a standard part of our membership since our founding.
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What are the pros and cons of concierge medicine?

 

The Pros

A relationship with a doctor who truly knows you and your goals. 

Peace of mind from knowing you'll get the care you need, when you need it. 

Convenience from handling the simple matters the way you prefer, whether that's over the phone, via telehealth, or electronically. 

A quarterback for your care, streamlining conversations among your various doctors and specialists. Oh, and handling scheduling for your specialist appointments. 

The Cons

Membership fees can be prohibitive for some. No way around that. 

Not a solution for all out-of-pocket costs. Expect to have the same out-of-pocket expenses for specialist consultations, prescriptions, and hospital visits that you would expect with a traditional primary care doctor.

While most concierge practices do accept insurance from many insurance carrier (for treatment, not the membership fee), there are some practices that accept fewer carriers than a traditional practice, many don't work with Medicare or Tricare.

While concierge medicine is gaining popularity, there’s still a chance, depending on where you live, that your nearby options are limited.

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. Rob Norris, PartnerMD Sandy Springs

PartnerMD Doctor
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What are your options for concierge medicine practices?

When it comes to options for concierge medicine, it varies based on where you live. Typically, you'll find:

  • Solo practitioners operating independent primary care practices.
  • Hybrid primary care practices, where doctors and/or patients split between traditional primary care and concierge care
  • Larger concierge medicine companies, like PartnerMD and MDVIP
  • Hospital-affiliated practices 

For those in our markets, we've written blogs comparing your options so you can get the information you need to make the right decision for you and your family. 

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How much does concierge medicine cost?

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What is the cost of concierge medicine?

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 we tend to call that VIP medicine or luxury medicine. 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. We transparently provide our costs through our online cost calculator

Read More — Concierge Medicine: Costs, Factors, Considerations

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How does insurance work with concierge medicine?

Most concierge practices work with health insurance the same way a traditional practice would. Here are a few things to know about insurance and concierge medicine.

  • Your membership fee does not replace your health insurance.
  • Your health insurance will be billed for medical care, including office visits, lab work, and tests.
  • 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.
  • Some concierge practices accept fewer carriers than a traditional practice, and some may not accept Medicare or Tricare. 
  • If you're exploring a concierge medicine practice that does not accept insurance at all, it might be better described as direct primary care

So be sure to double-check that a concierge office works with your specific carrier. See if they take government plans, like Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare, that you might use now or in the future.

You can check out a list of insurance plans we accept here. 

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Do HSAs or FSAs work with concierge medicine?

Yes, but with a few caveats.

  • Typically, concierge membership fees cannot be applied to an HSA or FSA.
  • HSA and FSA accounts are primarily applied to medical services only.
  • They work the same way whether you choose to see a traditional primary care doctor or a concierge doctor.
  • Your membership may include some services that can be applied to one of these tax-free accounts.

Check out our blog on how to use your HSA or FSA for concierge medicine

Read More: How to Use Your HSA or FSA for Concierge Medicine

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Why is concierge medicine different? Why is it better?

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What's the difference between traditional primary care and concierge medicine?

Before we go any further, you’re probably wondering…ok, so what’s the difference from the traditional primary care that we all grew up with? And it’s a good question.

Nearly 20 years have passed since the first concierge medicine practices opened and it’s still not a well-known or understood concept in healthcare.

First, it’s important to understand the difference is not in the doctor. Primary care doctors, regardless of the type of practice, are typically family or internal medicine physicians and can be either medical doctors or doctors of osteopathy.

Within both traditional and concierge practices, you’ll find capable doctors who strive to provide the best possible care to their patients.

The big difference is the environment in which the primary care physician practice. See the chart below for a comparison of the big differences. 

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Traditional Primary Care
Concierge Medicine
Patient Panel Size
3,000-4,000
500-600
Patients Seen Per Day
30-40
6-10
Average Time With Each Patient
7-15 minutes
30 minutes
Schedules
Booked weeks in advance
Same-day or next-day appointments available
Availability
Weekdays during business hours, some after-hours call or answering service
Guaranteed access to care 24/7/365
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Why is the concierge medicine model better for patients?

The short answer of this is that concierge medicine removes all the hassles of the traditional primary care experience and puts the focus back on you, the patient. 

  • Have you called to get an appointment only to find out your doctor is booked for weeks? 
  • Have you sat in a waiting room at a doctor's office for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour? 
  • Have you called for care after-hours or in the middle of the night and had to leave a message or gotten an impersonal nurse line? 
  • Have you finally gotten an appointment, made it through the waiting room, and then been dissatisfied with seeing a doctor who barely knows you for about seven minutes? 

The concierge model allows patients to be proactive regarding their health and removes the roadblocks preventing that from happening. That's one of the biggest reasons why people choose concierge medicine

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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 Short Pump

Petrizzi PartnerMD
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Why is the concierge medicine model better for doctors?

Doctors feel the effects of the traditional primary care system as well but in a different way.

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.

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

Some primary care doctors live with a constant "fear of missing something" because they weren't able to spend enough time with the patient to unlock the puzzle.

Concierge doctors are able to practice medicine the way they've always wanted — with patience and time for each and every patient who needs it. 

 

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Why should I switch to concierge medicine?

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Why do people switch to concierge medicine?

Pretty much everyone who thinks about joining concierge care has something in common: They’re ready to ditch 7-minute medicine. The question is, why now? Why is now the time to make the jump?

Let’s look at the 5 top reasons for joining a concierge practice.

  1. High achievers like concierge medicine. If you’re the type of informed consumer and health advocate who wants a proactive outlook, not a disaster relief mentality, from your physician, then you’re fitting in with many who choose concierge care.

  2. Existing condition requires attentive care. If you have a condition that necessitates a doctor’s in-depth attention, then 7-minute medicine is likely driving you crazy, bankrupt, or both. 

  3. Medical scare. Plenty of people choosing concierge care came from a moment of reckoning. They have a jarring experience that makes them re-examine their decisions, including their physical wellness choice. 

  4. Done with the waiting. If you're tired of waiting days or weeks to get an appointment and then waiting again in the lobby or the exam room, then concierge medicine is a fit for you. 

  5. Peace of mind for themselves or their loved ones (or both). For many, the deeper relationship with a physician and the 24/7 access to care provides peace of mind. You know you, or your loved ones, will get the care they need, when they need it, whether it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night.

Read More: Top 4 Reasons Patients Choose Concierge Medicine

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What are the benefits for healthy people?

We talk a lot about how concierge medicine benefits people who need better access to a doctor. But what if you’re younger and seem to be healthy?

Why should healthy people take the next step and switch to concierge medicine?

  1. Healthcare available when you need it. Squeezing a doctor’s appointment into your schedule can be nearly impossible when you have to plan three weeks out and count on a 30-minute wait in the lobby and a 20-minute wait in the exam room.

  2. Long-term prevention for lifelong health. What do you want to be able to do in 10 years? 15 years? How do you want to be able to live when you retire? There are things you can be doing right now, while healthy, to help you meet those goals down the line.

  3. Know your risks. You may be healthy now, but what are your risk factors based on your family history? What medical issues have you had in the past that might crop back up in the future?

  4. Your entire family can see one doctor (and get a nice price break). Whatever your family situation, choosing the same concierge doctor for your whole family allows for better-informed care on the doctor’s end and more efficiency for your life.

  5. It's like insurance. Don't wait until you need it to get on board. You’re only healthy until you’re not. Concierge medicine gives you and your doctor more time to look for root causes and work to prevent illnesses from developing down the line.

Read More: 5 Benefits of Concierge Medicine for Healthy People

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Are children a good fit for concierge medicine?

The benefits of choosing concierge medicine for your children’s primary care are the same as the benefits for adults. Enhanced access and a deeper relationship with the doctor can pay dividends for anyone looking for a better healthcare experience, including kids.

For your children, they get a partner in health they can trust who has time to get to the root of their issues. And as they grow up and go through life’s changes, they’ll have a doctor they know and trust.

For you as a parent or guardian, that trust can provide you peace of mind your children will get the care they need to live a healthy, prosperous life.

But in the short-term, the convenience of guaranteed same- or next-day appointments, no waiting in the lobby, and 24/7 access to physician care (for those 3 a.m. wake-up calls from a sick child) can make a huge difference for your busy life.

Read More — Concierge Medicine for Your Children’s Primary Care: Doctors, Age Limits, Cost, and More

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What are the top mistakes concierge medicine patients make?

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.

  • sign a contract

  • confuse care access

  • Insist

  • fail to use fsa/hsa

  • unused membership

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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.

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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?

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Insist on a specific concierge doctor.

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.

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Fail to use your HSA or FSA 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.

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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.

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What is the PartnerMD approach?

 

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.

"It's all about figuring out our motivations for living our best lives... And to do it well, you have to know them well. You have to spend the time listen, and get to know people, and understand their motivations. And based on that, you can help them move. That's the deal. That's where the cutting edge really is."

Dr. David Pong, PartnerMD Richmond

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.