One of the biggest questions that I hear from patients new to concierge medicine is how it differs from traditional primary care. Often, that question is rooted in a concern about leaving their current primary care physician. Patients are comfortable with their current physician, but they feel like something is missing from their care.
Two key concerns stand out: access and time spent with their physician. It’s not that primary care physicians don’t care or don’t want more time with their patients. The realities of the current health care climate put an emphasis on physician productivity. With more patients in the system and a reliance on reimbursements, traditional primary care physicians have to see a higher volume of patients, which can impact the availability, length and level of detail of an office visit.
Patients want a better way. And just like physicians, patients want to make informed choices in their healthcare. To make those choices, however, they need more time with their primary care physician.
Today is good
In traditional primary care practices, which may see thousands of patients, scheduling a timely appointment can be challenging, regardless of whether it’s urgent or preventative care. A three-day wait for a sick appointment is all too common, perhaps losing any advantages that early treatment might offer. Non-urgent care may require a week’s wait.
Concierge physicians limit the number of patients they see, so when the practice blocks off time in each day for same- or next-day sick appointments, one is almost always available. If the appointment is for a less urgent condition, in most cases, patients can be seen in 24 to 48 hours.
At the heart of concierge medicine is the belief that patients connect with their physician when a health issue has become a concern and when the patient can benefit most from diagnosis and treatment of the matter at hand.
The doctor will see you now
The traditional primary care model seems to place more importance on the physician’s time rather than the patient. Excessive wait times are common. Concierge medicine practices recognize that the patient’s time is just as valuable. With concierge medicine, a 10-minute wait before seeing the physician is considered too long.
Beyond wait times, let’s compare the time spent with the physician. The vast majority of traditional primary care physicians are only able to spend 15 minutes or less in the exam room with each patient. Since the visits are so brief, both patient and physician typically focus only on the physical symptoms of whatever issue brought the patient in. The doctor may be rushed and may not be able to fully explain any findings or offer complete, understandable instructions if treatment involves self-care. Patients may leave with more questions than when they arrived.
In the concierge medicine model, physicians will only see 8-10 patients a day, allowing them to spend 30 minutes with each patient, even for a minor issue like a rash. This gives the physician plenty of time to be thorough with the examination, treatment and guidance. A concierge physician will also have time to follow up on issues from previous visits. Perhaps even more importantly, the physician will have time to dig deeper and to discuss all the factors in a patient’s life that contribute to or detract from overall wellness, not just immediate symptoms.
Not all answers to patient questions require an office visit. Concierge medicine practitioners encourage patients to communicate with them via phone or an online patient portal. They back that encouragement up with quick responses to inquiries, even on weekends.
Concierge patients don’t have to experience the panic induced by inaccurate self-diagnosis or treatment based on what the internet says. Concierge medicine physicians are available to provide accurate assessment and guidance that’s right for each patient, individually.
It’s about time
Better health care hinges on time. We think patients should spend less time waiting to address health concerns and spend more time with their physician, getting the attention and guidance needed to live the healthiest life possible. That’s where concierge medicine comes in.