Business

I-Team: Maine doctors offer patients more time and access, for a price

We could see more doctors trying it out. A new survey of doctors from Maine to California, found almost 15% of them plan to practice concierge medicine at some point in the future.

BY CBS MAINE, iTeam

mdvip2YARMOUTH (WGME) | JULY 16, 2015 – Ever feel like your doctor has no time for you? It’s a frustration for many patients, but we discover a growing model of care in Maine offering a more personal relationship, longer visits, same day appointments, and even your doctor’s cell phone number. It’s also raising questions about access and equality.

“He’s a really nice guy, I just don’t understand,” Kathy Stephens said about her doctor’s decisions to convert his office to a smaller, more private practice.

He signed on with the Florida-based company MDVIP.

For about $1,600 a year, or $130 a month, patients get more access and time with their doctor. It’s what’s known as concierge medicine.

The fee isn’t covered by insurance, and is on top of all your other healthcare costs.

Stephens said it’s a tough pill to swallow, but after more than a decade, she’s now looking for a new doctor.

“I don’t want to leave him, but I can’t stay; I can’t afford it,” Stephens said.

Stephens’ doctor chose not to talk with us, but Dr. Philip Frederick remembers the transition well. He converted his practice to this new model of care a few years ago.

“It was difficult to say goodbye to a lot of my old friends and that was one of the things that gave me pause about doing this,” Dr. Frederick said.

But he says for him and his patients, it’s been a prescription for good health.

“I was getting burned out. I feel like I wasn’t practicing the kind of medicine I was trained to do,” he said.

Now he said he can. He only has about 500 patients. Before MDVIP, he had thousands.

“It sounded like going back to the practice I started 30 years ago,” Dr. Frederick said.

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NEW RELEASE — now available! It took nearly 3 years to write … The Doctor’s Guide to Concierge Medicine (nearly 400 pages of industry insight plus, over two dozen physician contributions compiled in one book) — On Sale $129.95 (Reg. $189.95)

That was before the growing shortage of doctors, electronic health records, prior authorization, and the pressure to rush through appointments to see more patients to make up for shrinking reimbursements from insurance companies and medicare.

With the clock ticking, time is money. Studies suggest the average visit to the doctor is only 7 to 15 minutes.

With MDVIP, appointments are at least 30 minutes.

After a recent appointment, sitting in a waiting room that looks more like a living room, patient Jodie Hall said she signed up two years ago, and has never felt better.

“We have to make some sacrifices in other areas to do this, but it is completely worth it especially when you feel in control of your health,” Hall said.

Gordon Smith with the Maine Medical Association said it’s unfortunate patients feel they have to pay a fee for “unhurried visits” and “appointments that start on time” as advertised in a brochure for MDVIP.

“It is a sad commentary. It just shows there’s a great deal of frustration in the primary care community,” Smith said.

Despite that frustration, Smith said he’s not so sure this model of care, sometimes referred to as “wealthcare,” will work well in Maine.

“We don’t have high incomes, people treasure the insurances they have; I don’t think you’ll see a lot of them running out and paying a high concierge’s fee,” Smith said.

Kathy Stephens said she won’t, because she can’t.

“It seems like people who are down on the pay scale don’t really matter any more. I think it’s terrible; it’s unfair,” Stephens said.

There are currently four MDVIP doctors in Maine. Across the country, the company is affiliated with about 800.

We could see more doctors trying it out. A new survey of doctors from Maine to California, found almost 15% of them plan to practice concierge medicine at some point in the future.

SOURCE: http://www.wgme.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/iteam-maine-doctors-offer-patients-more-time-access-price-28270.shtml#.VafLP_mfVZg

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