By: Terry Bauer
The emerging forecast for 2024 appears to be a challenging one, full of uncertainty and shifting tides in just about every industry, and healthcare is no exception. Older physicians will be retiring in record numbers, younger doctors searching for a way to avoid burnout and moral injury, employed physicians increasingly seeking autonomy and independence, and the promise or peril of artificial intelligence in medicine will remain an ongoing, urgent question. Of this we can be certain: 2024 will be a year of unending change, and a time of exponential growth for concierge medicine, inspired by doctors seizing the opportunity to forge deeper connections and align their priorities in a post-pandemic world.
This begins with the first wave of concierge physicians, soon ready to retire and looking for worthy successors to care for their valued patients. True pioneers who broke through the barriers of traditional, fee-for-service medicine, they were able to extend their years in practice with the more measured and maintainable pace of the Specialdocs concierge model. Initially, converting to concierge medicine was primarily considered by physicians later in their career. When I joined Specialdocs almost a decade ago, the average age of our affiliated concierge doctors was 62 for men, 52 for women.
My biggest regret is waiting until I was eight years out of residency,” – Dr. A.L.
Coming up is a generation not willing to wait. Now the average age at conversion is 51 for male physicians and 41 for females…several of our affiliated physicians are still in their 30s. The impact will be profound, opening the doors to physicians who will thankfully never endure the all-too-common experience of burnout, forced by a dysfunctional healthcare system to make choices not always in the best interests of their patients. As Specialdocs client Dr. J.M. realized at age 37: “I’m only human. I wish I could provide the most in-depth care possible to as many people as possible. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that we are all limited to a certain bandwidth, or it becomes unsustainable.” Converting to concierge medicine early on will not only bring him enormous satisfaction professionally and personally for decades to come, but benefit his patients with remarkable care and attention.
For another young Specialdocs client, even converting her practice at age 38 wasn’t soon enough. “My biggest regret is waiting until I was eight years out of residency,” Dr. A.L. shared. Now she’s caring for patients in a way uniquely her own, which includes fostering discussion around topics not often addressed in a traditional, time-constrained practice. “Recently, in a small group session with patients, we talked about forgiveness and how that impacts your health. I’ve never written a prescription to go forgive yourself for your blood pressure to come down; that’s not what we’re taught to do. And yet things like that are so important.”
For the first time in years, I can spend spring and Christmas breaks with my family.” – Dr. P.M.
Also increasingly drawn to concierge medicine are hospital-employed physicians, burdened by overwhelming administrative tasks and patient volume demands. Dr. P.M., a client who recently joined a successful concierge practice after 15 years as a hospital employee said: “I was frustrated, always figuring out how to care for a challenging patient at the moment of the appointment, with no time to prepare beforehand or follow up afterward. With time now to do both, I’m finding those patients are not really challenging at all.” She also treasures her newfound ability to take family vacations, saying: “Previously I was never able to schedule time during school breaks, but I’m so thankful to work in a practice where we cover each other’s patients. For the first time in years, I can spend spring and Christmas breaks with my family.”
Where does Artificial Intelligence fit into our year of change?
It’s been vividly described by Google CEO Sundar Pichai as “probably the most important thing humanity has worked on,” and by Fei-Fei Li, Co-Director of Stanford University’s Human-Centered AI Institute, as not artificial at all, but “made by humans, intended to behave by humans, and, ultimately, to impact human lives and human society.” AI is already starting to streamline time-intensive administrative and insurance management tasks for physician offices. On the horizon is harnessing AI’s predictive powers to identify effective medications, expedite diagnoses, and enable early, life-saving interventions for patients at high risk. Not coincidentally, AI’s evolution will likely be impelled by younger, more tech-savvy concierge physicians, who will have the time and inclination to explore and adopt its most useful capabilities. Promising indeed, but I believe that AI’s most important contribution will align perfectly with the enduring mission of concierge medicine: restoring time for physicians to provide care grounded in the irreplaceable long-term connection with their patients.
I encourage you to learn more in 2024 about the rewards of practicing medicine in the best way possible…your way.
Ready to see if you’re an ideal candidate for the Specialdocs concierge model?
If you’re looking to gain your independence to practice your best medicine for your patients and achieve a rare work-life balance, then consider taking our brief STEP form so that we may determine if you’re a good candidate for concierge medicine. Specialdocs is here to answer all your questions and guide you every step of the way towards building your concierge practice.