Concierge Medicine

Is Starting a Concierge Medicine Practice Worth it for Doctors?

June 02, 2021

Harsha Moole, M.D., MBBS

The tedious requirements of the traditional healthcare system have led some resourceful doctors to pursue other avenues in practicing medicine in a less stressful manner. Concierge medicine practice is one of the most promising and innovative results that arose from this movement.

The general idea behind concierge medicine is simple - to lessen the need for doctors to adhere to the tedious administrative rules and duties of traditional insurance-based models by asking patients to pay an annual fee. In exchange, patients get a more personalized and higher quality healthcare.

What Is a Concierge Doctor?

Concierge doctors are the physicians who run their practice or becomes affiliate with some network to offer their services to patients directly in exchange for a fee-to-service basis. Year-long contracts typically bind concierge doctors and their patients.

What Does a Concierge Doctor Do?

Concierge doctors offer their services to patients based on a membership fee basis. Patients can either pay in full or in regular installments over the year. In exchange, they would receive a personalized kind of healthcare that doctors in traditional practices can't provide due to the copious administrative requirements of traditional healthcare.

Concierge Medical Practices:

At its most basic iteration, the annual fee of concierge doctors covers an in-depth, comprehensive physical with screenings.

For higher-end concierge practices, the fees can also cover procedures, and other treatments that go beyond traditional insurance or government healthcare plans usually support. A few concierge practices even go so far as having doctors accompany patients to specialist visits.

Concierge medicine is tailored for patients who prioritize quality and convenience over the cost of quality healthcare. Therefore, fees for concierge practices tend to be higher than Direct Primary Care (DPC) practices.

Speaking of differences with DPCs, doctors with a concierge medicine practice are still considered in-network physicians. They can, therefore, still accept insurance and government healthcare reimbursement programs.

To be specific, Concierge Medicine can often use HSA. However, since doctors are still affiliated with insurance networks, concierge doctors retain the authority to refer patients to specialists within the patient's insurance company's network and still keep the patient's insurance coverage.

Concierge Medicine Benefits for Doctors

The annual retainer that patients have to pay their doctors go a long way in improving the working conditions for doctors. It allows them to see fewer patients while still earning a competitive income.

  • Higher Job Satisfaction:

    For many doctors, the traditional healthcare model requires them to fulfil copious amounts of paperwork on top of practicing medicine. This often results in the lack of face-time with patients throughout the workday.

    The exhaustion from seeing hundreds of patients and the lack of actual face-time with each patient can greatly decrease the quality of healthcare a doctor can provide.

    On the other hand, concierge doctors are free to choose how many patients to see in a day. This gives them a healthy work schedule that does not lead to fatigue and exhaustion at the end of every workday. In other words, concierge doctors are more at liberty to practice their beloved craft as they see fit.

  • Happier and Healthier Patients:

    Concierge doctors have lighter loads than traditional doctors, so they have more face-time with patients. This allows them to have a clearer assessment of their patient's health and have the time to develop a better quality treatment plan.

  • More Productive Use of Time:

    The inefficiencies of the traditional healthcare model is well documented. Plenty of doctors are overworked and underpaid due to the paperwork they have to do on top of practicing medicine.

    Concierge doctors can spend their time on more productive matters such as looking over charts and patient history precisely because they see fewer patients in a day compared to their traditional medicine counterparts.

    The significantly lowered number of patients also goes a long way in letting concierge doctors have more time for themselves.

  • Less Stress Due to Improved Doctor-Patient Relationship:

    Concierge doctors see a lot fewer patients compared to their traditional practice counterparts. This is because they're not fully reliant on their patient's insurance companies to get paid for services rendered.

    Instead, a concierge physician's income primarily comes from their patients through an annual retainer.

    Because of this, concierge medicine doctors get to build meaningful, but more importantly, productive relationships with their patients. The type of doctor-patient relationship that can forge in a concierge practice is a lot deeper and more committed than traditional insurance-based healthcare.

    The annual fees display the shared commitment of both concierge physician and patient to improve the patient's health.

    This shared commitment improves the communication between doctor and patient, which, in turn, makes for a better overall experience for both parties.

    Patients would become more comfortable sharing about their lifestyle and other aspects of their lives that affect their health, making it a lot easier for physicians to assess and prescribe the right treatment program.

  • Financial Security and Freedom:

    Concierge physicians have the best financial security and independence among doctors if all works out. It's not only that concierge doctors earn more per patient visit or consultation.

    They're also assured of higher income than purely traditional practices for at least a year because of the year-long contracts patients have to agree to and the monthly salaries they get from their traditional practice.

    Normally, concierge physicians charge about $50-$500 per month, depending on the service. So, suppose we're to estimate the annual salary of concierge medicine physicians.

    In that case, we calculate that it can range from $270,000 for most concierge doctors to about $2,700,000 for the cream of the crop on top of their regular salaries.

    Because concierge doctors already earn a significant amount from their practice's annual membership fees, they're not beholden to insurance companies.

    The insurance companies tend to ask for copious amounts of documentation and sometimes even infringing on the doctor's treatment strategies. Therefore, doctors in the concierge medicine practice are generally more free to do what is best for their patients.

  • Flexibility:

    Unlike in Direct Primary Care, concierge medicine doctors are not required to opt out of traditional insurance-based healthcare. This means concierge physicians can enjoy the best of both DPC and traditional healthcare medicine.

    In addition, concierge doctors don't have to sacrifice their insurance networks and salaries to get that coveted recurring membership fee.

    Concierge doctors are also more flexible because they can work as little or as much as they want by cutting back or adding to the number of patients for the year, depending on their needs.

    Another important financial aspect of a concierge doctor's flexibility is setting their annual rates. This means they can adjust it for clients who have different requirements for their concierge physicians.

    Concierge doctors are also not limited in how they can see the patients. They're free to use modern technology such as video calls, e-mails, traditional phone calls, and other forms of digital communication to serve their patients. This means less time wasted on commutes and more time for productive endeavors.

How to Build a Concierge Medicine Practice?

Now that we've established the benefits of starting a concierge medicine practice, it leaves us with an important question. How do we set one up?

  • Step 1: Assess the Market

    The first step is to assess the market. In this stage, the question one has to ask is whether the demographic of the area you wish to start your practice can sustain a concierge practice. Consider the income, age, and other socioeconomic factors when tackling this question.

  • Step 2: Create Business Plan

    Now that you've considered the feasibility of sustaining a concierge practice, it's time to craft a business plan. At this stage, it's important to figure out how many patients you need to service to sustain a level of profit that you're comfortable with. Concierge practitioners also wear the hat of a businessman, after all.

    More importantly, however, this is the stage to formulate your concierge practice's mission, vision, and guiding principles. From the target market and pricing to the number of patients and packages you will include in your concierge practice, these should all be considered at this early stage.

  • Step 3: Apply for the Necessary Permits and Regulatory Requirements

    HIPAA, commercial liability policies, and other regulatory and legal requirements must be filed before you can even begin operating a concierge practice. Research what is needed in your area and acquire the necessary documents.

  • Step 4: Streamline Processes

    Be it investing in highly qualified administrative staff or high-tech communications technologies, concierge practices must serve patients well.

  • Step 5: Sales and Marketing

    One of the most crucial steps in starting a concierge practice is finding the patients. In addition, concierge doctors need to be able to market their practice well to meet financial targets.

    Luckily, since concierge medicine allows for such a personalized type of medicine, it's common for concierge practices to gain traction through word-of-mouth. However, other marketing avenues can help in helping a practice grow.

The Average Concierge Medicine Physician Salary

According to Medscape's 2017 Physician Salary Analysis Report, the average salary for general practitioners is $ 294,000, while doctors using the concierge payment model make an average of $ 300,000 per year, which is only 2% more than the average salary of all doctors.

Is Starting a Concierge Medicine Practice Worth it for Doctors?

Long hours and incommensurate pay in traditional medical practice produce a lot of burnt-out doctors. Luckily, there's a better way to practice medicine with concierge practices.

It gives doctors flexibility, financial security, and most importantly, the ability to perform their duties to the best of their abilities. This is why it's important for doctors with the grit and stomach for running their own business should at least consider going into concierge practice.

Do you want to start and thrive at your own Concierge Medicine Practice? Then, list your practice for free and maximize your online reach, transforming health care shoppers into patients.

Authored by Harsha Moole, M.D., MBBS

Advocate of healthcare models that promote direct relationship between patients and doctors. Founder @ FindMyDirectDoctor, LLC.

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