Concierge Medicine Questions and Answers
What is Concierge Medicine?Concierge medicine in the United States began in the early 1990s. In Seattle a company called MD2 began offering what at the time was a rare and expensive form of primary care that became the standard for ‘concierge medicine.’ Their philosophy is ‘We didn’t take the bureaucratic oath.’ Soon, other concierge medicine practices began to spring up around the country with the first Tampa concierge medicine practice, CooperativeMed opening in 2002.
Concierge Medicine GrowsJust as with new technology, the first concierge medicine practices were quite expensive. But like technology, as more service providers have entered the market, the styles of concierge medicine have expanded to include lower priced practices as well. These lower priced practices have taken on the terminology of ‘Direct Care’ but the premise is the same: patients pay the doctor directly for personalized medical care. Concierge Medicine Today estimates there are approximately 12,000 concierge medicine or direct primary care physicians in the US today.
How it WorksA concierge medicine practice provides patients with personalized medical care and convenient service in exchange for a membership fee. In some cases the fee is paid in addition to standard co-pays for those practices that are also insurance-based practices. Practices such as Echelon-Health that are completely insurance-free include all services in the membership fee.
Insurance is not required, but is utilized for labs and diagnostic services ordered by the physician if available. For patients without coverage or high deductibles, Echelon-Health provides wholesale pricing on labs and prescription medications.
What is Included in the Membership Fee?In insurance-free concierge medicine practice, all office visits and office procedures are covered. That means when the patient pays the membership fee, the patient has paid for ‘all-inclusive’ access to the practice. So no matter how many times the patient needs to be seen, the fee doesn’t change. At Echelon- Health, we provide Sports and Family Medicine services in addition to a biweekly exercise club (FIT CLUB). We treat everything from fractures to colds including diabetes, hypertension, and acute concerns like lacerations and sprained ankles.
How Do Patients Communicate with the Doctor and Staff?One of the greatest advantages of concierge medicine is the ease of communication. Typically the doctor will provide his patients with his cell phone number for urgent after-hours concerns. Also patients can communicate non- urgent matter via text message, e-mail, or regular telephone communication. Video conferencing is another useful tool that concierge medicine physicians use to communicate with patients when they don’t need to come to the office, but require more interaction than a phone call or text.
How Quickly Can I Be Seen?Another advantage of concierge medicine is the lack of long waits to be seen. If the patient has an urgent concern, then the patient is usually seen the same day, or next day at the latest. Since concierge medicine practices are low volume practices (often seeing less than 8 patients a day) the schedule allows for ease of scheduling for all patients.
How Does Concierge Medicine Work With My Insurance?Insurance-free concierge medicine practices work best with high-deductible insurance plans. Although some practices accept Medicare Part B, Echelon- Health does not accept payment from any third-party, including insurance companies and Medicare. Federal law does not allow Medicare Providers to bill patients for services covered by Medicare Part B, even if the patient would like to pay for service directly.
Patients who have PPO type insurance can also be patients at concierge medicine practices. Patients who have HMO insurance will likely have difficulty with their plan covering labs or imaging studies ordered by a non-HMO physician such as a concierge medicine doctor, but are free to pay out of pocket for labs if needed.
Is Concierge Medicine Expensive?The membership fees for concierge medicine practices vary. There is a type of practice called Direct Care which is similar to concierge medicine. Between Direct Primary Care (DPC) and Concierge Medicine the membership fee price may vary from $50 per month to several hundred dollars per month. DPC practices have a higher patient volume than concierge medicine practices.
Is Concierge Medicine Ethical?While concierge medicine is considered ‘controversial’ by some, mainly due to cost, the reality is that differences in prices of products exist everywhere in life. Whether it is an automobile, a hotel, a meal, or a basketball, the price of products vary considerably. At Echelon-Health we believe that not only is concierge medicine ethical, but a valuable service that is both affordably and transparently priced. No person has ever been forced into joining a concierge medicine practice, just as no one has ever been forced into eating a fine meal or driving a nice car.
How Can I Learn More About Concierge Medicine?We encourage those interested in Echelon-Health to schedule a complimentary informational consult where we can delve further into what we do and how it may fit into your lifestyle.
To schedule a complimentary consultation please contact Echelon-Health at 813-415-2319.
At this consultation you will learn more about our practice and tour the facility.