It sounds like every patient’s medical fantasy: Easy access to your doctor 24/7, same-day appointments, thorough and unrushed examinations, little to no time in the waiting room. The only downside is expense: To get this kind of personalized care from a primary doctor, you have to pay an annual fee, and forget about insurance covering it. And you will still need insurance to cover hospital stays and specialists.
Is this ultra-personalized health care, which is called “concierge medical practice,” worth it? Many patients think so. Even those squeezed by the recession are often finding room in their budgets for the annual fee for a concierge doctor, even as they cut down on restaurant dinners and other non-essentials.
According to a report by Kevin Sack in the New York Times, leaders in the field of concierge care say they see no impact of the recession in the steady growth of their practices. Dropout rates from the practices are holding steady.
It’s estimated there are about 5,000 concierge doctors in the United States, a small fraction of the 240,000 internal medicine doctors in the country. One of the largest groups is called MDVIP, which started in Florida and now has 300-plus physicians in its network. Each MDVIP doctor is limited to 600 patients, who have to pay an annual fee of $1,500 to $1,800. The limit on the number of patients lets the doctors see far fewer patients in a typical day.
The advantage for patients is having a medical expert on hand who knows your body intimately and can sometimes detect subtle danger signs before a full-blown crisis develops.
In his new book, The Life You Save: Nine Steps to Finding the Best Medical Care — and Avoiding the Worst, finding a top primary care doctor is one of Patrick Malone’s key “steps” to finding the best medical care. If it takes extra money to get that relationship, and you can afford it, signing up with a concierge medical practice can be money well spent.