Concierge Medicine: A Return to Old-Fashioned Care

Same-day appointments, phone conversations with your doctor, long visits, and house calls. These health care services, from a seemingly bygone era, may be possible with concierge medicine.

Also known as “boutique medicine,” concierge medicine entails patients paying an annual out-of-pocket retainer fee—which can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars—to have access to uber-personalized care from their doctor.

This medical trend, growing by about 25 percent a year, according to a September 2015 Consumer Reports article, is not just a plus for patients; it works in doctors’ favor, as well. Under the concierge care model, the typical number of patients a doctor has is fewer than 500, versus 2,000 patients under traditional medicine, as stated in the 2014 Health Journal. Doctors can spend longer periods of time with their patients and learn more about them, as well as have greater opportunities to encourage and monitor prevention and overall well-being.

Despite these benefits, there are possible downsides. Not everyone can afford the retainer fee on top of their health insurance premiums and copayments. Also, because most concierge doctors are generally primary care providers, the trend contributes to the already-ongoing shortage of primary care doctors. Another criticism is that the model may not necessarily mean better care, but instead overtreatment and overtesting, as reported in a January 2013 AARP article.

If you’re interested in being a patient of concierge medicine, consider factors such as your health and financial situation, as well as how satisfied you are with your current medical care. Also, before deciding on a doctor, interview him or her to see how well you communicate with each other. Be sure to check the license of your doctor on the Medical Board of California’s website at www.mbc.ca.gov or Osteopathic Medical Board of California’s website at www.ombc.ca.gov.

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