The idea of concierge medicine is still fairly new. In the past, the physician established a connection with the entire family. The physician knew their patients, their occupation, medical history, something about their daily routines, the names of their kids and may have been present for the birth of the children. The physician served not only the family, but their community as well. They took the time to check on any health issues or concerns and made house calls. The concept of the modern personal doctor in the 21st century is completely different. Unfortunately, this is backed up with statistics from the last decade. The average time a physician now allows for an appointment is just eight minutes. This is because the typical doctor in the United States is caring for a staggering 2,367 patients.
The patient load of modern physicians does not give them the ability to know their patients like they would have in the past. This has become the basis for the typical medical practice. Concierge medicine does not fit into the same mold. This branch of medicine was established to enable the patients to receive more personalized medical care and attention that the typical physician is no longer able to provide. The main reason not all doctors offer this type of care is because it means spending more time with each patient to understand everything from their medical needs to their home lives. The majority of experts in the healthcare industry believe an improvement in healthcare is necessary. In most cases, the concierge practices improve the quality of care, resulting in their patients feeling more comfortable and confident in the care they are receiving.
The main benefit of this type of medicine is a much stronger connection between the provider and the patient. The primary care services are a lot more affordable for the patient, and the providers encounter less red tape. The service improves for all of the parties involved. Concierge practices have become a lot more common. According to the latest studies, ten percent of every physician practicing in the United States is either considering, exploring or is already a part of concierge medicine. The primary care model incorporates medical providers such as internists or family practitioners and bills their patients quarterly, monthly or offers a flat fee retainer. Since the retainer is the most frequently used mechanism, Medicare and insurance are either not necessary or used secondary. The insurance middleman is effectively eliminated.
The Many Benefits of Concierge Medicine
One of the best benefits is patient access increases. Since the primary care providers do not care for nearly as many patients, the access is much greater than with a typical physician. The patient can make contact either in person or through the internet. The time spent waiting for an office visit significantly decreases, appointments are often available the same day and the backlog for diagnostic and lab work also decreases. This reduces the stress of the patient while waiting for their results. A good example is when a patient is waiting for their biopsy for a possibly cancerous lesion. The results from a traditional practice or hospital often require weeks to arrive. A concierge practice offers a much shorter wait period for any test causing the patient to stress. The results simply arrive much faster.
Since the practice has less overall patients each day, the service is more personalized and attractive. This means more time is spent with every single patient. Statistics show a concierge practice spends a minimum of thirty minutes with their patients for every consultation. This is more than double the amount of time spent by the typical physician for their routine visits. This eliminates the stress of a rushed visit not allowing enough time for the patient to explain the details of their issues. Unfortunately, the time allotted often runs out before some of the issues are even mentioned. The problem with the traditional practice is there are so many patients that it becomes impossible to keep all of them straight. Instead of being individuals, the patients become a number on the physician’s chart. This makes it extremely difficult for the patient to feel comfortable and important.
The continuity of care improves due to the decreased number of patients, the increase in the attentiveness of the practitioner and the shorter wait period. As the patient continues to see their provider, they are able to establish a relationship based on the long-term understanding of mutual respect and trust. This means the chances of the patient showing up for their appointment with our team at Reno Sparks MedSpa improves substantially because they are comfortable and they trust their provider. When the patient has a medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, their condition is managed better than with a more traditional provider. The relationship between a traditional primary provider and the patients is often ambivalent. The patient is often unhappy because they are concerned with the approach of quantity before quality.
This does not mean a traditional physician does not offer quality care. On the other hand, even patients in good health as opposed to ill patients requiring additional care are able to spend more time with their concierge provider to build a closer relationship. A traditional medical practice has to handle the multitude of requirements from the insurance industry. Even a physician with a small practice must hire full-time employees to handle billing codes in the thousands. The only other option is to hire an expensive company for billing to make certain the office receives payment for their services. The large practices require an entire team of specialists for billing and coding just to handle Medicare and private insurance companies. Billing and administration becomes extremely expensive and encompasses a large portion of the overhead.
Concierge medicine generally adheres exclusively to the FCC model. This means the practice does not have to deal with any insurance companies. Even though the providers offering hybrid or FFEC arrangements need to work with Medicare and insurance companies, the extent is much lower. The savings for the lower overhead are passed onto their patients through decreased add-on or out-of-pocket fees or lower retainers. It is important to note these providers offer a closer relationship with all of their patients, not just the patients requiring additional care. This boosts the reputation and image of the provider by enhancing the good feelings and comfort of the patients. This is good for both the patients and the physicians. When a patient has trust, they will most likely take a proactive approach as opposed to waiting until they are no longer able to ignore the issue.
Concierge medicine offers benefits for the provider as well as the patients. The provider no longer has to rush because they have enough time to take care of their patients properly. Due to the structure of the concierge practice, billing and collection practices are usually eliminated. If the practice decides to completely eliminate insurance, the savings substantially increase. The practitioners are also able to target their practice for the specific needs of their community. This personalizes their services. If the practice is in an area with a low income, a lower fee can be charged to help the patients who are usually unable to afford the cost of healthcare. If the practice is located in an area with a high income, the practitioners can charge the fee upfront. Either way, the patients are receiving additional care and features unavailable with a traditional practitioner.
The Types of Concierge Medicine
There are three different types of concierge practices. The first is the (FFC) fee for care model. This model completely eliminates the need for health insurance. The practitioners do not accept insurance. The patients pay either an annual retainer or a flat fee each quarter or month. This fee covers office services and consultations including routine lab work like a cholesterol reading, pelvic exams, blood pressure checks, etc. The patient can pay for any additional services as they become necessary such as refilling a prescription, diagnostic exams and vaccinations. An (HSA) health savings account is offered to individuals unable to pay any expenses outside of their retainer. In some cases, the HSA can be purchased through the individual’s employer to partly or even fully cover their expenses.
The retainers charged by the practice are not generally linked to any specific services. In most cases, they provide the patient with unlimited services and care during the period of time the retainer is in effect. Some practices use the retainer similar to a prepaid debit card. The services of the practice are deducted from the retainer when they are provided. If the patient uses the entire retainer within the allotted time period, they pay for any additional services required. In most cases, the patients receive same-day appointments with the FFC arrangements. The low-retainer plans usually offer appointments during the same week. This type of practice most likely includes a remote provider. The patient is able to text or call their physician provided the question is not an emergency. The response is received the same day or within the week, depending on the plan.
The majority of FFC providers also have a much smaller volume of regular patients than a typical practice. There are variations in the exact number among the providers. The actual number may be fifty or less. This number is especially accurate if the practice is considered to be a high-end service. It is rare to see a number exceeding 1,500 as opposed to the three to four thousand patients handled by a traditional provider. A primary care provider that accepts insurance is usually required by the employer to handle a minimum of 25 patients every day. It only stands to reason when the number of patients seen daily decreases, the provider will have more time to spend providing care for each patient.
The second model is (FFEC) fee for standard care. This is very similar to the FFC model. HSA-paid retainers are used to cover the out-of-pocket expenses for the patient. In some cases, the services are unlimited with the HSA. The HSA may also be used as a debit with no carryover from period to period. The biggest difference between FFC and FFEC models is the FFEC enables the patient to use private insurance or Medicare to cover any services or fees not included in the retainer like prescription medications and outpatient procedures. This is an excellent benefit for patients receiving Medicare. Most of the costs for services not covered by the retainer are paid by Medicare.
The FFEC model is also advantageous for patients with private insurance. The premiums can be much lower than the actual cost of the additional services the patient may require. The patient has the ability to use their insurance coverage to cover most of the cost for the additional services.
The third model is the hybrid. This model generally uses either private insurance or Medicare to pay for the cost of routine services and care at the office. The retainers are much less than those for FFEC or FFC. The retainer is paid annually, quarterly or monthly. This covers the costs for value or specialized services including house calls and wellness and customized health plans. In most cases, private insurance and Medicare will not cover these costs. Most retainers do have a coverage limit. A good example is a hybrid plan covering a comprehensive wellness and health plan including health indicators such as blood sugar and weight. The patient may have to cover extra office visits or changes made to the original plan.
It is important to understand the (ACA) Affordable Care Act in relation to concierge services. This law requires all individuals to have the minimum of a bare bones insurance policy. This can be purchased from numerous sources. This is usually a lot less expensive than purchasing one of the more traditional insurance plans. This is especially true when the patient is in good health. This type of patient is much more likely to look for a concierge practice. This is a more affordable option than purchasing expensive health insurance that the individual will use rarely. It is just as important to understand the difference that technology and cultural changes have made in the relationships between patients and their healthcare providers. The younger generation expect fast and responsive service, consultations off-hours, shorter waits for diagnostics and same-day appointments from their providers.
There is a shortage of primary care physicians expected in the United States by the year 2025. The number has been predicted to be between 12,500 and 31,000. Primary care providers are generally used by people with health insurance. Due to the ACA, the number of people with healthcare insurance in the United States is currently in excess of ten million. As this number continues to increase, patients going to traditional primacy care practices can expect rushed services, a longer wait for an appointment and the lack of a relationship with their provider. This is the reason the number of mid-level practitioners has substantially increased.
One of the reasons concierge practices became possible is the technology of personal electronics. This provided the patients with a wide list of options for contacting their provider. The providers can also use the technology to remotely track telemedicine systems and to monitor home-bound patients. The providers can even conduct examinations from long distances. This is all based on a fast internet connection and powerful processors.
If you are interested in concierge medicine, please don’t hesitate to set up your personal consultation with our specialists at Reno Sparks MedSpa, located in Reno, NV. We are proud to offer concierge medicine services. Contact us today to book an appointment and learn more!