Posted Oct. 3, 2012, 12:05 p.m.
By Carolyn Schierhorn / Staff Editor
The son of an osteopathic family physician, Frank P. Pettinelli Jr., DO, of Mount Laurel, N.J., had a vision for what family medicine should be when he joined his father’s practice in 1984. Two decades later, after years of declining reimbursement and an ever-increasing patient load, he knew he had to make a change.
“I had approached the point where I was working 18-hour days,” Dr. Pettinelli says. “I would see up to 50 patients a day. Like many doctors today, I was unhappy practicing medicine.”
He first tried downsizing his practice and adopting electronic health records to become more efficient. But he still had 7,500 patients and two office locations. Nostalgic for a time when doctors knew their patients well, Dr. Pettinelli decided in 2007 to drastically reduce his patient base and embrace a primary care practice model commonly known as concierge medicine or retainer medicine, in which patients pay an annual membership fee for more personalized care. Like a number of such physicians, he had help from a firm that provides turnkey marketing, fee collection and technological support to a network of physicians adhering to a version of the concierge model.
“It’s like a joint venture,” says Dr. Pettinelli, a client of Pennsylvania-based Total Access Medical, which handles his patient enrollment, mailings, fee collection and practice promotion. “I am back to being a doctor, which I love.” Total Access receives a portion of the approximately $2,000-per-year membership fee it collects for each patient. Dr. Pettinelli no longer accepts Medicare or other health insurance, but this is not true of all concierge practices.