Medical practice offers service for flat fees
Written by Lisa Bernard-Kuhn | MARCH 17, 2013 — Dr. Jerry Tolbert says he’s gotten back a precious asset that physicians across the country are scrambling to find: More time with patients.
Less than two years ago, the Burlington-based doctor struck out with his son Dr. Gerry Tolbert to open Total Access Physicians (TAP). The concierge-style practice charges patients an annual fee of $900 to provide all of their primary care services, regardless of the number or complexity of visits.
In return, patients get as much face time with their doctor as they want, as well as the physician’s personal cell phone and email address.
“If a patient needs to be seen in the evening, we’ll see them in the evening. If there’s an emergency, they can … call me and get answers to their questions,” said Jerry Tolbert. “It’s a newfangled way for old-fashioned medicine.”
Similar practices, also known as direct primary care, are popping up nationally as physicians look for new ways of doing business in a industry beset by reforms and rising costs.
For now, the model represents less than 1 percent of country’s physicians. But concierge practices grew by 25 percent in 2011 to 4,400 doctors, according to the American Academy of Private Physicians, a membership-based non-profit in Virginia.
For most doctors, “the only way to stay afloat is to see patients in faster volumes, but at some point, the pace of delivering care strips all the satisfaction for physicians and effects the quality,” said Tom Blue, executive director of the academy. “Private medicine is a good alternative for those doctors who want to maintain their independence and financial stability.”
In a nationwide survey of 13,000 physicians, 7 percent said they would consider switching to a concierge model in the next three years, according to The Physicians Foundation, a national doctors advocacy non-profit. Nearly 9 percent of physicians surveyed in Ohio and 3.4 percent in Kentucky said they’d consider the move.
At Total Access Physicians, the group has about 150 patients. The practice recently added Dr. Teresa Koeller, who previously worked alongside Jerry Tolbert at St. Elizabeth Physicians, a division of St. Elizabeth Healthcare that has 290 doctors.
A growing practice
• Concierge practices, also known as direct primary care, are becoming more common across the U.S. Physicians see them as one solution for doing business in an industry beset by reforms and rising costs.
• Patients can pay a flat annual fee for primary-care services or pay per visit.
• The model now represents less than 1 percent of the country’s physicians.
• Concierge medicine practices grew by 25 percent in 2011, though, to include 4,400 doctors, according to the American Academy of Private Physicians, a membership-based nonprofit in Virginia.