By Damini Dawar, MeriNews
The discipline of concierge medicine has become quite popular with more and more patients seeking individual and personalized medical care. Reacting to the increasing trend of concierge care practiced by doctors, the American College of Physicians (ACP) has released a policy position paper, which talks about the effect of concierge medicine or direct patient contracting practices (DPCPs) on patient care in terms of medical quality, cost, access and workforce with a focus on ethical practice and makes recommendations to mitigate any adverse effect on the undeserved patient.
Elaborating the topic, American College of Physicians defines concierge medicine as “any practice that directly contracts with patients to pay out-of-pocket for some or all of the services provided by the practice, in lieu of or in addition to traditional insurance arrangements, and/or charges an administrative fee to patients, sometimes called a retainer or concierge fee, often in return for a promise of more personalized and accessible care.”
In recent times, the concierge business model has attracted a lot of patients, especially medical tourists, as it aims at providing services holistically, from fixing appointments with doctors, planning a trip abroad to get medical treatments, email access, phone consultations, newsletters, prolonged visits, comprehensive wellness and evaluations plans, arranging the accommodation to even providing the contact details of the services providers and medical facilitators.
Speaking on the issue, Padam Shree Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, National Hon General Secretary, IMA and President, HCFI said, “The future of concierge medicine in India depends upon the physicians and patient’s choice to take up the concierge model, as it has both pros and cons. While implementing the concierge business model, physicians get to spend more time with their patients and as a result they are able to communicate effectively with them. In addition to this, patients are able to see the doctor anytime they want. In such cases, patients are more likely to open up about their problems and discuss about their expectations giving enough time to a physician for managing a particular medical casualty. Although the idea of taking up a concierge plan might sound a bit expensive to some, the higher priced plans generally include services like x-rays, ultrasounds and lab tests as well. Not only this, the patients can also avail services like home visits in case of emergencies and expedited emergency room care anywhere in the world. “
While concierge medical practices serve as a source of satisfaction for both patients and doctors, it impacts low-income patients severely, as they cannot afford the fee charged by a doctor for personalized medical assistance and other benefits. In addition to this, this impacts a doctor as well, as the number of patients a doctor sees decrease exponentially.
- This business model can be successful only of physicians maintain a level of transparency with their patients. A doctor should make sure that the patients knows about the details of financial obligations, services offered and the fees charged for the serves provided
- Above everything, a doctor should honor their professional obligation to provide nondiscriminatory care to all his patients. Doctors in all kinds of arrangements should not differentiate between patients based on caste, creed or financial status when they are in need of immediate medical care
- Policymakers should identify and address the potential pressures on physicians like stress and burnout situations, which are ultimately pushing them towards adopting concierge practices or DPCPs
- Physicians should be careful while charging a patient for the services provided. The service provider cannot charge the insurance companies for the services the concierge fees already covers
- Shifting to concierge practices equals to a risk, as introducing patients to a new business model may require marketing with efficacy to achieve required results
- A physician’s earnings may see a downside, for a while as concierge medicine is more about improving the services a doctor provides, simplifying insurance hassles and delivering the best with lots of personalized care