By Alan S. Horowitz
SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 – There are some potential downsides to the concierge model. One thing physicians often worry about is patients overusing premium services like 24/7 access to their doctors. But Behroozi and Blue say this concern doesn’t play out often. Since patients are able to get appointments more quickly, they are less likely to abuse their access to the doctor. “The anxiety level has gone away because they can see the doctor the next day,” says Behroozi.
Dr. Grant elaborates, explaining that difficult patients who would be more likely to abuse their access are typically not willing to pay to join a concierge practice in the first place. “They don’t see the value of what I’m doing and are not likely to sign up anyway.”
A bigger concern has to do with insurance regulations. Doctors have to be careful about double billing, or charging a patient directly (e.g., through a membership fee) for services also billed to an insurance provider. A careful eye on billing practices is needed to avoid such risks.
But the biggest challenge of all? According to Dr. Grant, that would be marketing. As with any small business, attracting “customers” (i.e., patients) is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome. In order to succeed in a concierge model, a physician has to sign up enough patients to be sustainable.
Enter marketing. Dr. Grant has gotten creative with his marketing strategies. He’s advertised in a country club newsletter, engaged financial advisors (who are always looking for services to provide their own clients), and even spoken in front of men’s groups since his practice is male-oriented. He’s also reached out to human resources departments at mid-sized companies to make himself available to their executives.
Most of Dr. Grant’s efforts are too new to gauge their success, but the takeaway is clear: doctors interested in the concierge model should be willing to commit to more marketing.