With so many questions surrounding America’s newly adopted Affordable Health Care Act, being able to see a doctor in a timely manner is a top concern for a lot of patients today. With lots of recently insured patients popping up in waiting rooms, waits have become longer and a shortage of physicians has started to become noticeable and apparent. One way patients are handling this issue is by turning to concierge medicine, where they’ll have direct, immediate contact to a concierge physician of their choice. This type of physician is readily available and instantly attentive to the patients needs.
Contrary to popular belief, a Concierge Physician is not just for the super rich. In fact, with several licensed medical doctors choosing to close their private practices due to extensive changes in health care regulations and insurance issues, there is a steady rise of new Concierge Physicians offering exceptional medical care to their private patients. However, learning how to become a Concierge Physician is not as easy as it might seem. And since these private doctors depend on seeking out their patients - as opposed to patients visiting their offices, this is a career path perfectly suited to the individual that is self-motivated.
What is a Concierge Physician?
A concierge physician is a primary care doctor that works outside of large, corporate hospital or multi-specialty clinic systems, as in the traditional structure we’re familiar with today. They examine patients, treat injuries or illnesses, take medical histories, prescribe medications, perform and interpret diagnostic tests, and guide patients on overall wellness and preventative healthcare.
Since they don’t work in the traditional corporate hospital or clinical system, concierge physicians can only take on a limited number of patients. A typical physician today is seeing about 2,500 patients, a concierge doctor can usually take on about 500, but obviously varies per doctor. This smaller patient pool enables the physician to have direct contact with their patients through phone or email, which isn’t the case for typical physicians. It enables them to give their patients immediate, same day service, if not, next day.
Dr. Doug Pitman, M.D. of Whitefish Personalized Health Care in Montana explains about the traditional family medicine practice, “…the average time to get an appointment is over 3 weeks, the average wait time in the waiting room is 30-45 minutes, and the average time spent with the patient is between 8 and 12 minutes.” With Dr. Pitman’s concierge practice, “The patient can see me on the same day as their problem, spend no time in the waiting room, and have as much of my time as they need to accomplish our goals.” In addition, if their patients have to go to the emergency room, the concierge physician will meet them there with all medical records and assist the patient through the process as needed. If the patient’s problem requires a specialist, the doctor will expedite that process routinely.
Also, through practicing concierge medicine, physicians are able to skip dealing with their payments through a 3rd party, or, the entanglement of hospitals and Medicare/large insurance companies. This can alleviate a few headaches for the doctor. Instead of the standard pay per service through insurance model, concierge physicians have the option of simply charging an overall annual or monthly fee based on providing availability to their patients. Different physicians can have different payment models, and many physicians work with specialty “agencies” to handle all billing procedures. This all helps free the doctor up to spend much more time with his or her patients.
A doctoral or professional degree is the educational requirement for concierge physicians.
Step by Step Educational Path of a Concierge Physician
After all steps have been completed and after being officially licensed to practice medicine, the physician can start seeing patients without needed supervision.
Since a concierge physician is kind of like being self-employed, in some cases, it will be up to the physician to gather and work with his or her own patients outside of traditional clinic or hospital systems. Because of this, many years of experience with many different patients in the traditional system is recommended before starting or joining a concierge medical practice.
In other cases, physicians team up with already established concierge medical companies who can act as “agents” to help bring the doctor patients and also works as a billing office for the doctor. A company like SignatureMD assists physicians in integrating a concierge medical service system into the physician’s personalized practice for them. Since teaming up with SignatureMD, Dr. Doug Pitman says, “submitting bills to both Medicare and insurance companies is a thing of the past. I do not need a billing office and my company SignatureMD takes care of all financial matters.” Because of being able to bypass this step, Dr. Pitman explains, “It has liberated my time for the benefits of my patients and my family and allowed me to pursue those aspects of medicine which I have always found most satisfying, that being wellness and prevention.”
The career outlook for future for concierge physicians is very promising since the adoption of the Affordable Health Care Act, reason being that many doctors are not happy with the tough constraints of Medicare and insurance companies and are searching for new ways to deal with the difficult system. The concierge model’s popularity could definitely skyrocket in the coming years since it works around this tough process. There are tons of physicians that have taken the concierge path and are raving about the benefits.
Since this is a new-ish trend that’s catching on (the trend being new, not the concept), it’s hard to predict the big picture on how popular it could eventually become, but many sources, like Forbes.com, predicts concierge medical practices have a bright future that we could all turn to eventually, stating that “it’s possible that we all could have a concierge doctor with no more doctors than we have today,” and goes on to encourage the general public to seriously consider this model.
The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates that there will be a shortage of 91,500 doctors by 2020 as the Obamacare insurance coverage provisions are implemented and 30 million Americans become eligible for health insurance coverage. With this massive increase in insured patients, physician jobs in general will continue to be in extremely high demand. On the patient’s side, impatience with very long waits to get in to see a doctor is bound to become a major concern. More concierge medical practices can provide an excellent alternative for patients looking for better service.