by Jessica Socheski
Though many patients remain unaware of its existence, the field of concierge medicine continues to quietly expand throughout the US among primary care physicians. It’s not a business model for everyone (or every market area), but roughly 4,400 American doctors have switched to a form of cash-only medicine called direct primary care, Forbes reports. And the appeal is growing.
Many doctors don’t want to be doctors any longer. Healthcare reform and provisions of the Affordable Care Act have other providers looking at alternatives. Direct primary care (DPC) is an option for both doctor and patient with advantages to lower reimbursements, higher premiums and less doctor/patient time for personalized care.
What’s so Marketable About Cash-Only Medicine?
Because DPC patients pay upfront (by cash, credit, check or debit) doctors like Doug Nunamaker, a family physician from Wichita, KS, are free to say goodbye to insurance companies. Comprised of three doctors working together, his practice, Atlas M.D., accepts patients on a membership basis.
For a monthly fee of around $100, consumers receive “unlimited access to the doctors and any service they can provide in the office, such as EKGs or stitches,” explains CNN Money. This set-up quickly adds up to some appealing selling points, including:
•More frequent office visits (which equals better preventative care)
•Longer time spent with the doctor
•Less doctor burnout and increased career satisfaction
•Cost-cutting in the physician’s office
When DPC doctors decide to stop accepting insurance, it translates to reduced costs. First, it means lower overhead and less paperwork if the billing department doesn’t have to constantly negotiate with payors.
What’s more, the monthly membership structure allows doctors to leave the craziness of a pay-per-visit model that encourages them to build a patient list upwards of 2,000 people. Instead, some concierge physicians report having patient lists as small as 250 to 400 names. This leads to great career satisfaction, and reduces burnout, as doctors can spend more face time with each patient. For the patient, that means an improved experience and satisfaction.
On the flip side…
The positive points of a concierge practice come with a price tag that plays better in middle-upper and upscale markets. Although marketing and advertising are part of the answer, the new business model can be a major challenge for a busy doctor who has never had to market for cash patients.
Sweeping changes in the American healthcare deliver system have caused both doctors and patients to look at non-traditional alternatives, and concierge medicine is one of them. Comprehensive direct primary care seems posed for continued expansion.
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Jessica Socheski is a healthcare writer who is passionate about healthy living and lifestyles. When she’s not jogging, exploring the farmer’s market or cooking fresh foods, she contributes to a number of recognized healthcare blogs such as Health Works Collective and Ragan’s Health Care Communication News. You can follow her on Twitter.
For more on this topic, and a list of seven important considerations, see Concierge Marketing and Advertising That Works.