Concierge or boutique medicine originally started in Seattle during the mid 90’s. Physicians were fed up with the overflow of patients and were feeling overworked. They believed they weren’t able to care for their patients individually. Patients also felt the burden and often have to wait weeks to schedule an appointment with their family physician.
With concierge medicine patients pay an annual fee or retainer to have 24/7 accessibility to their doctor. In return their doctor provides more personalized care to a limited amount of patients usually between 100 and 1000. The annual fee usually ranges from $1000 to $2500 but can go much higher for family care.
On the dawn of healthcare reform the interest in concierge medicine is greater than ever. Because of its sudden popularity the medical community has raised many ethical and legal questions.
Doctors in the Orange County area are dissatisfied with their current doctor-patient relationships and are turning to concierge medicine practices. There is a ever growing number of patients and not enough doctors to care for them all. Insurance companies and managed care programs are imposing discounted fees but requiring physicians to increase the number of patients they see every day. Because of the influx of patients doctors are limited to 5 to 10 minutes per patient. This type of “fast-food medicine” is not enough time to deliver proficient care to patients. Physicians often surpass the capacity of care they are able to provide. In addition, physicians are not able to bill their standard fees and must absorb overhead expenses.
The concierge medicine business model is just the right treatment for overworked and underpaid physicians. The business model gives physicians the opportunity to avoid the restraints of managed care, see much fewer patients and spend more time caring for each patient.
I cannot say that I don’t see where the doctors are coming from. With the healthcare reform bill quickly approaching I can see why doctors are concerned. I know from personal experience that if I call my general doctor he likely will not be able to see more for a week, sometimes two. No matter your stance on the matter concierge medicine isn’t go anywhere anytime soon.