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Benefits and Drawbacks of Concierge Medicine

Concierge medicine is a growing area in health care. Think of it as a private arrangement that works a lot like a gym membership: a consumer pays a monthly or yearly retainer to their doctor or practitioner in order to have exclusive access to their services at any time and any place.

Retainer fees, which are typically high, allow providers to make enough money from seeing and focusing on a few patients each day, rather than seeing upwards of 60 patients per day. This means that consumers who pay for concierge medicine receive more time and attention from their doctors, which in turn gives them greater peace of mind (Ornum).

In this arrangement, the relationship between the  consumer and the provider becomes a tight bond, much like family. The doctor makes house calls and may even accompany the family on a trip or vacation for the safety and reassurance of their clients (Dudley). They become very close not just professionally but also personally. Research on the amount of referrals to mental health services when patients display problems like depression or anxiety has been sparse; however, it could be possible that these issues might be addressed more effectively within this type of close relationship, where honest discussions can occur (Ornum).

Payments for concierge medicine are typically not run through insurance, saving practitioners time, paperwork and administrative costs and allowing them to focus more on what they do best. Many doctors enjoy this arrangement because it is less stressful than working in a hospital setting (Ornum).

The increase in providers choosing to offer concierge medical services could result in smaller numbers of practicing primary care physicians who accept insurance, since specialists and concierge doctors get paid significantly better and enjoy much better hours and work conditions than primary care physicians working in hospitals (Dobrin). This could become an issue for consumers, particularly for those who depend on Medicaid or Medicare for their primary medical care. With fewer available providers, people in these demographics will not benefit from the growing popularity of concierge practices.

Many believe that concierge medicine will inevitably become where medicine is headed in the future because people who can afford concierge medicine drive the demand for such luxury services. Doctors will, in turn, gladly provide these services (Dobrin).

The emergence of concierge medicine really opens up the discussion of how the medical community can provide fair access to health care to the public while also offering options to those willing to pay the higher costs for expanded access of services.

References

Dobrin, A (2011, June 16). “Concierge Medicine Buys Special Care for Those Who Can Afford It.” Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/am-i-right/201106/concierge-medicine-buys-special-care-those-who-can-afford-it.

Dudley, S. (2011, June 27). “Concierge Medicine Has a Cost for All Patients.” Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://articles.latimes.com/2011/jun/27/health/la-he-practice-concierge-medicine-20110627.

Ornum, W. V (2010, December 13). “Concierge Medicine and Mental Health Care.” American Mental Health Foundation. Retrieved from http://americanmentalhealthfoundation.org/2010/12/concierge-medicine-and-mental-health-care/.

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