As an increasing number of American’s are getting access to affordable health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, more and more physicians are choosing to restrict which types of insurance to accept – with some no longer accepting insurance at all. While some of these physicians have moved strictly to a direct pay model, others are moving towards Concierge Medicine. For a monthly subscription fee, these physicians offer patients same day appointments, cell phone access, email and telemedicine service, care coordination, and sometimes even house calls.
While the Concierge model was originally designed for wealthy individuals (often at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars per year for these high end practices), more affordable models of Concierge Medicine are now cropping up and becoming viable options for the middle class that many are opting for. For physicians, even the “blue collar” models offer many benefits, including smaller patient panels, less administrative work, and better work-life balance.
While traditionally this model was used by independent practitioners, that is beginning to change. As this model grows in popularity among both physicians and patients, Concierge medical groups are beginning to crop up. By forming these alliances, these traditionally Independent Concierge Practices are able to further reduce the individual cost of expenses for physicians, making the option even more attractive. For physicians who prefer the security of employed positions, many medical groups and health systems are adding concierge or executive health divisions, offering the best of both worlds.
While the Concierge Medical Model has many benefits for both patients and physicians, the shift of physicians from traditional practice models to concierge medicine can exacerbate the already large physician shortage. While most physicians have patient panels of 2,500-3,000, most Concierge physicians have patient panels of a few hundred at most, leaving thousands of patients in the lurch.
What can traditional practices and health systems do to keep from losing their physicians to concierge medicine? The key is to make sure to provide existing physicians with excellent work life balance. This can include:
- Family friendly office hours
- Ensuring that each physician has enough advanced practice providers and administrative staff
- A 24/7 Hospitalist service to minimize call
- Professional development and advancement opportunities
By providing physicians with what they need to provide top quality care to patients while keeping their work-life balance concerns and professional advancement in mind, practices and health systems can help stem the flow of physicians leaving their employ for Concierge Medicine.