Do You Have What It Takes?
By CMT, Editor-In-Chief | Originally Written: JULY 2022
The editor’s at Concierge Medicine Today (www.ConciergeMedicineToday.com), asked some of the industry’s leading physicians and business owners recently, ‘What are the character and/or quality traits of a concierge doctor medical practice owner?’
From the beginning, the idea of starting or even moving your medical practice and local patient population into a subscription seemed both intimidating and intriguing to many Doctors. But having observed, interviewed, coached, educated and encouraged Physicians now for over a decade about what this physician-patient relationship is all about has led our team to put together some helpful conclusions. Scholars, Physicians, business experts and even venture capitalists say concierge medicine is a growing industry. It continues now years later to remain that way. But, as we’ve learned over the years, the best concierge [and private, direct-care] doctors share a collection of characteristics. From the ability to communicate with clarity, provide certainty to Patients when there is little to be certain about, tolerate risk, treat 5 to 9 patients per day verses 8 patients per hour in a traditional, plan reimbursed setting, risking their reputation over golden handcuff reward to passion and self-belief in themselves.
We’re proud to know you and even more grateful for their courage, belief and Docpreneurial spirit they display. After all, “It is not about being the best Doctor in the world any more, it is about being the best Doctor FOR the world, FOR your Patients and FOR your local community.”
So as we unpack some of the qualities and character traits of successful Concierge Medicine and private, subscription-based Physician practices, we encourage you to see these traits in yourself and more importantly, share this article with a colleague or a friend that you think also exudes these qualities.
To kick us off, most Physicians and consultants alike explain the initial learning phase and subsequent transition process as a marathon, not a race. More of an ultra-marathon really, dependent upon which individuals you might talk to. Nonetheless, they have to be able to live with uncertainty, push through a valley of challenges and climb a mountain of obstacles for a couple of years in some cases.
For other Physicians, it took a shorter amount of time to cross the chasm. For others, understandably they needed a little more time and certainty to cross every t and dot every i. To each their own they say.
“The conversion process is not an easy one,” said Dr. G., M.D. of FL. “My staff and I are cognizant of the fact that we must consistently communicate the benefits of this choice in care, with the challenge to increase my concierge numbers and convert my non-concierge patients.”
One thread all of these Physicians had in common though, they started. They took the first step. According to Merriam-Websters definition of Grit, … Grit means you have courage and show the strength of your character.
The goal is never perfection. The goal is always progress.
“I received a phone call the other day from a physician in Winter Park Florida,” says Dr. D., a concierge medicine physician practicing in South Florida. “She was calling just to thank me for answering her questions about concierge medicine a few months ago, and encouraging her to start her own concierge practice. Today, her practice is thriving and she said that ‘she is happy with her schedule, her life, and being able to practice medicine that way it is meant to be practiced.’ I was so happy to hear that I helped a fellow physician and colleague, and even more happy to hear that she was doing so well!”
It is commonly assumed that most Doctors who enter concierge medicine are driven to do so by money.
I have never met one. That may seem hard to believe but it is true.
Now I’ve just a few, a few … young Doctors who were tire kicking the idea of starting a concierge medicine practice for example that asked the salary and income questions right off the bat, but to my knowledge and my own professional opinion, these few and young individuals lacked the six habits we’re describing here.
What most Doctors who’ve been there and done that will tell you is … ‘I’m fueled by a passion to help my patients. I’m now allowed the opportunity to problem-solve and make life a little easier, better and cheaper for my patients.’
“If you possess excellent communication skills, around the clock dedication and the desire to promote optimal health in pursuit of excellent medicine, then concierge medicine is for you. It’s the best career choice I’ve ever made.” ~Dr.T., MSM, DO, PA, FAAP a Concierge Medicine Pediatrician
Managing Fear, Uncertainty and Potential Failure.
The ability for Doctors to control their doubt and fear in times of uncertainty is to our staff and Concierge Medicine Forum faculty, the most important trait of all.
This is a tough one for a lot of people, myself included from the perspective of a Patient, caregiver for aging parents, father and husband.
Risk-taking goes with the territory when you talk about being a Doctor these days. It’s even more so when you move into a different financial business model such as concierge medicine.
When you must wrestle with the notion of … ‘I don’t think my patients are going to like this,’ it can seem easy to say no and just stop.
But a Concierge Medicine Doctor’s ability to withstand the pressure. overcome the mental obstacles of uncertainty and the potential financial failure and see the transition through to the other side before others around them do is to us here at CMT and the The DocPreneur Leadership Academy, what makes a successful concierge [direct-pay] physician.
“The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” ~Thomas Edison
Communicating Vision and Task-Specific Confidence.
Physicians who’ve traveled down this path over the past 20-30 years imagine another type of relationship between a Physician and a Patient.
At times, it is a medical practice environment free of the insurance burdens, utilization management, charting and heavy administrative overhead.
“In selecting only a small population of clients and providing dedicated counseling sessions, sometimes as often as weekly, allows clients to actively participate in their care plan and to move goals forward at a real-time pace. This enables all of us to realize that healthcare can be a positive experience.” ~Dr. Carrie Bordinko in Paradise Valley, AZ
Great Concierge Doctors envision spending more time with their patients and create margin for themselves and their Patients to enjoy the practice of medicine and talk to their Doctor again.
Oftentimes, Physicians and medical practice business owners will find themselves facing naysayers, says one doctors in New York.
“We often see the future before it plays out,” said one New York Concierge Medicine Physician. “We have to be prepared to be several steps ahead of the market.”
“I remember when I started my direct-access, home-based primary care practice (www.MetroMedicalDirect.com) in 2009,” says Raymond Zakhari, NP and CEO of Metro Medical Direct. “Patients were skeptical and reluctant because of how accessible and convenient the service was. They expected to be kept waiting on hold. Some seemed puzzled by the fact that when they called I answered the phone and knew who they were. One patient even inquired as to how come they only had one form to fill out. Direct-access primary care patients who have been referred post hospital discharge, have not been readmitted to the hospital in the last 4 years because I can see them without delay or red tape. In NYC, despite the high number of physicians per patient, particularly on the upper east side of Manhattan, direct-access primary care can still be a viable practice solution for patients and providers. It helps patients cut through the red tape that has become expected in accessing health care.”
I’ve spent a lot of time talking with successful physicians [and unsuccessful ones too …] addressing the challenges and reminding them of the importance of remaining flexible and planning before they move into concierge medicine or start a direct primary care membership program in their practice.
It’s highly likely that their final service or product offering won’t look anything like what they started with. But they had a vision and they wanted to see it through to fruition.
They understood that planning ahead and remaining flexible for a longer period of time than they may have expected was important. Their willingness to defy conventional wisdom helped them respond to a lot of changes in their local economy and they were able to maintain their flexibility during unforeseen and uncontrollable market forces that would have derailed most Doctors.
They had the ability to pivot when necessary and maneuver around or over most hurdles.
“One of the most difficult occurrences is when patients who does not understand the program or who philosophically disagrees with the membership fees (i.e. thinks this is for rich people) accuse the physician of abandoning them,” says one former Transition Manager in Arizona. “Sometimes patients can be very vocal about their opinion of this and at times, be quite rude. This is very disheartening to most doctors, at least in the early stages of the transition process. ‘Saying goodbye’ to some long-term patients is one of the reasons many Physicians are reluctant to convert [to a Hybrid model].”
Even the thought of starting a concierge medicine or direct primary care medical practice or subscription-based healthcare delivery program in your local community defies conventional wisdom according to many of your peers or some people in the healthcare marketplace … if you consider the fact that 13 percent of Americans are engaged in a start-up businesses, according to a Babson College report, doing what the majority of doctors are doing now a days is not in your future, you are a risk-taker.
I love what this long-time friend and one of my favorite Physicians said in response to our writing this article said … “Instead of viewing the status quo PCP model as the center of the universe. Maybe we should take some plays from the Retail Clinic playbook before we become obsolete.” ~Direct-Pay Physician, Dr. R.N., Direct Primary Care (DPC) Physician in GA.
Are these characteristics or traits in you? There’s only one way to find out. Start!
Helpful Industry Resources