By Jason deBruyn, Staff Writer, Triangle Business Journal
MAY 22, 2014 – As the health care landscape continues its long and winding change, doctors at Boylan Healthcare also switched up their business model.
In an effort to capture patients who want more attention and are willing to pay extra, three doctors formed Boylan Clinic to offer a concierge medicine option to patients. Under this model – the doctors prefer terms like “executive primary care” or “signature care” to the word “concierge” – Drs. Todd Helton, Robert Smithson and Charles Wehbie view patients almost more like members. These member patients pay an annual fee of $1,650, but have better access to the doctors throughout the year and the doctors give patients more attention. Boylan will cap membership at 1,800 for the clinic, or 600 per doctor. That’ s well below the 4,000 or so patients each doctor had in his rotation before the change.
“We realized that a lot of people wanted more access to their doctor,” said Helton.
The shortage of primary care doctors has been well documented, and these doctors are now seeing as many as 24 patients per day. That leaves little time to focus on any one patient, something that led to a frustrating work environment.
“I was ready to pull my hair out,” said Smithson. Under the new model, routine patient visits are as long as 30 minutes, and if a patient wants to talk about anything off topic, “we actually have time to do that,” said Smithson.
Outside the annual membership, the charge structure of the practice is very similar to that of a traditional practice, with applicable co-pays or deductibles applying in the standard way.
Some patients were eager to join this model, even if it costs a little extra. Mary Riggan and her husband were among those who made the switch. They had been patients of Boylan for more than 45 years, but wanted more.
“Continuity of care was very important and we wanted to have easier access to our physician,” said Riggan. “You need to be able to get in touch with your doctor when you need them. He or she, in turn, needs to be able to practice medicine the way they’ve been trained to do. They can’t do that when they have huge numbers of patients to treat.”
The doctors at Boylan Clinic now see closer to 11 patients per day and have time to visit patients in the hospital, if needed, something that has become a rarity in busier independent primary care practices and as hospitalists have become more common.
The clinic is wholly owned by Boylan Healthcare, which was founded in 1963 and is now under the UNC Physicians Network, part of UNC Health Care. The larger group still offers a more traditional care model so any patients can stay with Boylan, even if they move to a different part of the practice.