Concierge Medicine: Doctor Care As It Should Be?

Our friends at Wikipedia define “Concierge Medicine” as “a relationship between a patient and a primary care physician in which the patient pays an annual fee or retainer. This may or may not be in addition to other charges. In exchange for the retainer, doctors provide enhanced care.” 

My guess is that, “enhanced care,” to the patients who are willing to pay extra for it, may be the kind of care that used to come naturally from the medical community before the days of insurance reimbursement cuts, the burden of administrative paperwork (just to get paid for the services provided) and the rise of medical malpractice claims.   These changes have forced most physicians to see more patients, spend less time with them than they would like, and to cut staff and other costs (that used to enhance the patient experience) – just to survive.

Hence, the birth of the concierge physician.  Concierge physicians, in contrast, care for fewer patients than those doctors in a conventional practice.  Their patient census ranges from 100 to 1,000 patients per doctor per year.  By comparison, the average primary care physician sees about 3,000 to 4,000 patients every year.

The Benefits
Concierge doctors generally claim to be accessible via cell phone or email at any time of day or night and usually offer special services above and beyond what is normally provided by an average doctor.   Patients can expect that appointments with their concierge doctor will start on time and last as long as necessary.  Appointments to see them can usually be made the same day or the next one. The concierge physician will often conduct a comprehensive annual physical automatically and write out a yearly wellness plan for each patient to follow.

Another benefit to having the services of a concierge physician available is his or her ability to connect the patient with the appropriate specialist, when and if needed.  Often these physicians have a lengthy list of specialists they are familiar with and will make a personal call to arrange for their patient to be seen a lot quicker than they would be able to be seen on their own. 
Says one financial planner outside of Chicago about using a concierge physician for her own family’s care, “There’s a seamless regimen now to my healthcare now.  Quarterly, we get a comparative analysis of what’s improving and not improving in our health. Our doctor makes things easy:  he’s more like a partner than a doctor.”

Virtually unknown 10 years ago, concierge medicine is gaining in popularity.  According to the Society for Innovative Medical Practice Design, a professional society of concierge physicians, in 2005 there were 500 doctors practicing what’s referred to as concierge medicine. Today, there are over 5,000 – and growing.   The website for the American Academy of Private Physicians states:  “We are building the wellness model of the future and actively critiquing the circular illness-model. The common denominator that sets us apart is our desire to listen longer, ask more questions, and take the time to work through a complex problem in the spirit of healthy living and longevity.”

Why the Concierge Concept Matters
The concierge medicine concept makes a lot of sense for practical and busy people who can afford it.  For a fee, they know they are getting the services of a qualified professional who will be attentive their full range of medical needs and will be available to them when needed – without much of a wait, if any.   To me, it sounds like doctor care the way it should be, and that’s why we borrowed this concept from the medical community in designing our current wealth management practice. 

Concierge Financial Services – A Similar Concept
At SRQ Wealth Management, some of our operating principles that we feel are similar to that of a concierge physician include:
• Limiting the number of clients served – so we can spend more quality time with each of them.
• Offering comprehensive financial planning to all clients, to pro-actively help them take charge of their “financial health.”
• Making every effort to be generally accessible by phone or e-mail at all times – as needed.
• Having the independence made possible by working through LPL Financial – that allows us to be more accountable to our clients than our broker dealer (e.g. not being “saddled” with sales quotas and only proprietary products).
• Assisting our clients to connect and work with a variety of “specialists” (that can help to complete their financial planning needs), whether it be an attorney, CPA, mortgage lender, insurance consultant, etc., and
• Providing value by helping to coordinate key elements of a client’s financial life, to ultimately help achieve their goals – and also potentially save them money:  through improved efficiencies or avoidance of costly mistakes with investments, cash flow management, insurance, tax planning, or their estate plan.  You just can’t put a price tag on good financial health!

Summary
Our team at SRQ Wealth Management feels our practice is very much like that of a concierge physician as we both operate with the same goal:  to spend more time and provide better care for our clients.  We hope you agree!

To find a concierge physician in your area, go to:  http://www.aapp.org/resources/.
To find a concierge financial services firm in Sarasota, go to:  www.srqwealth.com.