Last Updated: December 2018/January 2019 Edition – The concierge medicine and direct primary care health industry is just like any other industry — it has many success stories, but it also has a few stories of woe. When choosing a doctor in this subscription-based healthcare delivery model, there is an entirely set of new questions that you want to be sure you have answered for you and/or your family.
“America’s Best Places To Work never include a doctors office,” says Michael Tetreault, Editor of the trade publication and conference host, Concierge Medicine Today. “Inside traditional medicine, patients expect to wait. They expect insurance to cover their visit. When it does not, they expect to fight. Consumers of healthcare today say they expect a disengaged staff and an unpleasant visit when at the Doctor’s offices. Concierge Medicine and its offspring of other subscription-based healthcare delivery models in primary care, family medicine and even sometimes in the specialties — give people a choice. They give people options and that’s a good thing!”
What if I were to tell you a story about how a Mom with a brain tumor is still loving her kids and living with her family at home because of the early and intentional intervention of a Concierge Physician? Or, what if I were to tell you that a seasoned citizen in the mountains of Montana broke his ankle and was able to video chat with his Doctor while alone on the trail and find a way to limp back to civilization? For Doctors, some of you have great stories to tell. But outside the four walls of your practice, people in and around your community are telling an entirely different story. In fact, you’ve probably heard people share horror stories about a recent hospital stay or specialist encounter. People are literally trying to one-up each others stories about how bad healthcare is out there.
For those that get it, you don’t need convincing. The words Concierge Medicine, subscriptions or even membership never bothered you and it never will. You welcome the wincing, the head-scratching and raised eyebrow dialogue and you see how what you are doing can and is helping change the stories people share around you and in your community.
“It’s a different type of busy … My day is just as long now, if not longer. But, I’m spending a lot more time with all of my patients. In between visits, I’m on the phone checking on people at home.” ~Physician in FL
“Primary Care needs to become relevant again by servicing patients directly and being available and offering the kinds of broad services that family doctors used to offer. This kind of approach will also drive more medical students back into primary care and restore the balance back to the ratios before managed care.” ~Dr. N, Atlanta, GA
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You probably won’t get through all of them (maybe 20-25) … but you should come prepared to get your concerns and questions answered to your satisfaction.
Here are a couple of tips shared by Physicians and Patients to help get you started down the right path.
- Before you sign-up and pay a Concierge, DPC or Membership Medicine doctor’s office their fee, you should schedule a complimentary meeting with that doctor to discuss the benefits, services and cost of their practice.
- Bring a copy of these 50 questions as your guide – download the PDF here.
- If your questions are not answered to your satisfaction, don’t feel any pressure from the physician or the staff to join at that moment. Move with certainty and spend your money with wisdom. Most Membership Medicine Doctors office do not deploy hard-sell tactics anyway … but there are always a few that do. Most physicians in this sector say they encourage their new patients to take the necessary time they need to decide whether or not this is an expense and professional healthcare relationship they need/want in their lives. Your next physician should be just as respectful.
- If you need help locating a Membership Medicine Clinic (MMC) near your home/office, click here.
- Doctor’s Full Name?
- Total years in Practice?
- Years in practice?
- Do you have multiple locations? If so, where?
- Do you have a web site?
- Can I read patient reviews about the doctor and his/her practice?
- Does your web site have the Doctor’s bio? on it?
- What is your monthly, quarterly or annual membership fee(s)?
- How do I pay the doctor?
- Do you accept quarterly or monthly fees?
- What services are covered by the annual fee?
- Do you offer any discounts for couples and/or families that join (if applicable)?
- What additional fees are not included in the annual membership fee?
- Will I be required to pay even if I do not need to use your services?
- What services can I expect to receive directly from your nursing staff or other healthcare professionals at the practice each year during my membership?
- Do you accept Insurance? How compatible is your medical practice and services with my health insurance plan?
- Do you participate in Medicare? (If applicable)
- Do I need insurance to enroll or sign-up?
- Is there a co-pay?
- May I see a copy of your Medical Service(s) Agreement?
- What if I need to go to the hospital or emergency room?
- Will my insurance reimburse my monthly fee?
- If applicable, tell me about what’s included in your Annual Physical?
- Tell me about afterhours care and the doctors 24/7 availability.
- Can I still see my gynecologist? (If applicable)
- If a duplicate test is ordered by your office and by a specialist I’ve recently seen, will you coordinate with that specialist’s office to receive the results so I do not have to go thru the same process more than once? If not, why not?
- What is your annual patient retention? (I.e. do you retain most of your patients annually?)
- What about lab, x-ray and specialists’ fees and hospitalizations?
- How long do in-office visits typically last?
- How long will I have to wait if I come in for a visit?
- Do you provide home visits or delivery of prescriptions to my office of home?
- What if I have an emergency or need hospitalization?
- What hospitals does this doctor have admitting privileges to in this area?
- What about the cost of prescription medicines?
- Can I receive text messages from my doctor? E-visits, Skype Video chat, or FaceTime thru iPhone?
- What type of new technology do you use regularly in your concierge medical practice?
- If I call my concierge doctor at 8pm or 2am for an urgent healthcare concern, what will happen? I.e. Will the doctor be available?
- What if I need to see a medical specialist or need surgery?
- How difficult is it to get an appointment?
- Do you provide same or next-day visits with unhurried appointments that start on time with the doctor?
- What happens if my doctor goes on vacation?
- What happens if I am hospitalized in another state or country?
- How will you, your office staff, etc., communicate with me and oversee my care?
- What happens if I move out of the area after I enroll?
- Can I enroll in a concierge medicine plan anytime in the future?
- What if I get married or have/adopt a child?
- Can I extend coverage to my new family members?
- Do you provide help for out-of-town family members visiting for a few days in the event that they have a health issue?
- Do you have any specials/discounts running right now?
- How do I sign up?
A lot of people in Concierge Medicine and other similar, familial subscription-healthcare niches all have something in common. Not only do these Physicians understand that ‘Membership drives engagement’ as one incredibly popular group of clinics in Calif. states, but they all understand that healthcare can and should be a marriage of the Hippocratic Oath and the Golden Rule … a love note to patients about what could be and should be in healthcare.
Fast forward twenty years to present day and most of us have subscriptions, both big and small. If we don’t use them, we cancel them, right? Membership equals engagement, whether that be in the form of a movie, a tv show we binge watch or albeit, a Doctor’s office. Today, these business models we use (e.g. Netflix, PRIME, etc.) outside of the four walls of a Doctor’s office help us feel more comfortable with subscriptions and memberships in healthcare. Today, the Doctors offices we visit and hear about so often in the news are constantly evolving and are actually now quite common. Healthcare’s once sloooooooooow acceptance to memberships has now become much more widespread and taken on many forms. Like many industry’s, price points range.
Story continued below …
So in conclusion for today, you should understand that the world is looking at Concierge Medicine in all of its forms, all of its price points and all of its wonder and the people around you are turning this snow globe over and saying, ‘Huh, maybe I should give this a try.’ For some, it is a welcome reprieve. For others, it is so radically simple it’s strange. We all do everything we can to make our friends and family feel at home when we invite them to dinner. Yet in a healthcare environment, we are minutes away from walking in a medical office and expect we will receive something entirely different, and most often, we do.
Original Article, APRIL 25, 2016. Updated for our December 2018/January 2019 Edition.