By Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief
An excerpt from The Doctor’s Guide to Concierge Medicine
Medical centers are no strangers to Concierge Medicine programs, but they have an entirely different set of complexities to consider when implementing in local hospitals and communities for the first time. The physicians who work inside concierge medical center programs are typically primary care and family physicians and some Hospitalists. We know that more hospitals are looking at ways in which they support and service their local communities. More physicians are turning to these facilities for employment.
The Lewis and John Dare Center at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle has been a model for concierge medical care and unique primary care programs for a number of years. In August 2013, the Dare Center invited concierge physicians, hospital administrators and medical center executives from across the country to participate in a roundtable discussion. The inaugural event took place in Seattle, WA.
The AMA created the STEPS Forward program to refocus physicians towards spending more time directly caring for patients. The program includes several educational modules that tackle common practice challenges, often focused on increasing physician productivity. One such module, for example, focuses on optimizing staff performance. 
“We have toolkits on increasing the responsibilities of our nursing and medical assistant partners, so that they can do more as they are rooming the patients in the pre-visit time, before the physician component of the visit, and so they can do more after the physician component of the visit,” says Sinsky. Since introducing the STEPS Forward modules, Sinsky says AMA has seen 50,000 physicians complete at least one or more modules.
Representatives from The Lewis and John Dare Center at Virginia Mason Medical Center the discussion. John Kirkpatrick, MD, a Dare Center physician, was one of the main speakers and noted that the focus of the meeting was to bring together staff members of medical centers with existing concierge programs to discuss common problems and share successful solutions. At least 15 medical centers attended this meeting. There was a breakout session for program managers in established practices and another for attendees exploring this type of practice, as well as a round-table discussion with “lessons learned” from other programs currently operating in the marketplace.
Other topics included: alternative models; amenities/perks; preserving academic standards; legal hurdles; marketing tips; compensation issues; expectations/boundaries; recruiting; networking and other topics important to successful medical center operations.
“The challenges of medical center Concierge Medicine programs are very different than those experienced by concierge physicians in private practice,” said Dr. Kirkpatrick. “All hospitals/medical centers have special perks and usually enhanced access to specialists for their donors and patrons, often a special number they can call. Most have an informal private banking approach where there is no established fee, just an expected level of donation. Despite the proliferation of individual concierge practices and now organized networks, Concierge Medicine programs INSIDE medical centers are quite unusual. There may be only 20-25 in the entire country.”
The top five considerations institutions should consider when exploring incorporation of Concierge Medicine programs inside medical centers are:
- The CEO MUST be supportive and the overall organization MUST embrace the concept. This cannot be over-stated.
- The program needs a Champion. This can be the CEO, or a doctor who is going to provide the care, a VP of Marketing/Business Development, a VP of Foundation or Development Department. Someone must keep the program moving forward. Someone with the clout to promote and do it.
- The Medical Center should have a well-to-do population base of interested Patients . This program works for Mayo in the Phoenix, AZ area and in Jacksonville, FL but not Rochester, Minnesota.
- The Medical Center needs two doctors who already provide personalized services to their Patients.
- Steering committee of stakeholders – Patients, providers, senior administrators, development officers, marketing experts, nursing staff.
Other very important steps include approval of the legal department and development implementation of an internal marketing plan for education of all staff. This should be performed even before external marketing begun.
If you are considering opening, starting or adding a Concierge Medicine or membership medicine program inside a hospital setting, Concierge Medicine Today has relationships and resources that you should consider. Email Concierge Medicine Today at firstname.lastname@example.org and include in the Subject Line: ‘Hospital Setting Inquiry.’