The X Factor: for Women Physicians, the Rewards of Concierge Medicine are Even Greater

By Terry Bauer, CEO, Specialdocs Consultants

One of the greatest privileges of serving as CEO of Specialdocs Consultants is bearing witness to the transformation of our clients from overburdened and dispirited to rejuvenated and deeply satisfied with life and work.

When the company was founded 17 years ago, it was primarily male physicians who were benefiting from a change to the Specialdocs model of concierge medicine, grateful beyond measure for the restoration of their autonomy, financial stability and an opportunity to enjoy career and family.

While this occurred before terms like ‘burnout’ and ‘no work-life balance’ became sadly synonymous with medicine, the downward spiral for physicians in traditional fee-for-service practices was clearly accelerating. For women physicians, who were entering the profession in record numbers, it was even more daunting, faced with a glaring pay inequity and exacerbated by the confluence of their prime earning and childbearing years.

Specialdocs’ concierge medicine model offers a compelling solution to women who are challenged to realize their vision of providing outstanding care to patients without sacrificing personal commitments to family.

We’ve seen it firsthand as we’ve welcomed women physicians to our network with increasing frequency over the past decade, currently representing more than a third of our clients. Now able to control every aspect of their career – work environment, patient experience, membership fees equal to male counterparts, pursuit of professional and personal interests, more time for family – our female Special Docs have expressed genuine joy with the choice they made.

Here’s a small sampling of their comments:

“I wanted to be home in time to read to my children and put them to bed and give my patients as much time as needed to answer all their questions. Concierge medicine is the best way to achieve both.” – Dr. Monica Sarang, Burbank, CA, a Specialdocs concierge physician client since 2015.

“What we get as concierge physicians and as women is control of our work environment, patients’ experience, ability to earn a living, and the way we take care of our families, and that’s a tremendous privilege.” – Dr. Dorothy Serna, Houston, TX, a concierge physician since 2017.

“It’s brought back all the reasons I went into medicine in the first place.” – Dr. Carrie Cardenas, San Diego, CA, a Specialdocs concierge physician client since 2018.

“I really enjoy being a doctor again.” – Dr. Beth Dorn, Torrance, CA, a Specialdocs concierge physician client since 2015.

“I have two young children and it’s hard to stay a good doctor and a good mother. Being pulled in so many different directions, you feel like you’re not doing anything right. Concierge medicine allows me to have more time, and benefits my patients, my family and me.” – Dr. Cecily Havert, Alexandria, VA, a Specialdocs concierge physician client since 2019.

“With concierge medicine you can have a full practice and still be able to teach, do research…stretch yourself.” – Dr. Judy Shea, Greenwich, CT, a Specialdocs concierge physician client since 2015.

Gratifying, without a doubt. However, it’s sobering to realize just how far we still have to go. This was abundantly clear at the recent American Medical Women’s Association annual conference, where I presented a poster on the concierge medicine model to a group of 1,200 women physicians at varying stages of their career, from medical students to accomplished practitioners with decades of experience.

Some of the most frequently expressed concerns I heard from these dedicated healthcare professionals were dealing with burnout and a distinct absence of work-life balance. This was particularly frustrating in light of the milestone achieved in 2018 when, for the first time, 50% of incoming medical school students were women. The promise appears to be bumping up against a sad reality.

Consider this: 40% of female doctors surveyed in a new study stopped working or moved to working part time within a few years of finishing their medical training. In contrast, all of the male doctors kept working full time.¹

When asked “What is it like to be a woman in medicine?” responses in 2019 compared to 2018 showed that negative experiences had tripled or quadrupled in these key dimensions of work life: perceptions that women were treated less professionally than their male counterparts (increased from 10% to 36%), were discriminated against (increased from 8% to 34%), and were working in a male-dominated field (increased from 4% to 15%). Just 20% of respondents in each year’s survey characterized their work in medicine as a “great experience.”²

Meanwhile, female physicians are suffering higher rates of burnout (50%) than their male counterparts (39%)³.

This is simply unacceptable, with repercussions that affect the entire healthcare system – physician burnout is estimated to cost between $2.6 billion and $6.3 billion each year (source: Annals of Internal Medicine) and is associated with increases in unsafe patient care and lower patient satisfaction. The psychic cost is far greater. We can and must do better.

As the male CEO of a company founded by a visionary woman, I feel a deep responsibility to share the opportunity concierge medicine provides female physicians to shape their individual journey.

If you are interested in exploring how our concierge model can restore balance and joy to your working life, I hope you’ll reach out to us.

1. Gender Disparities in Work and Parental Status Among Early Career Physicians – jamanetwork.com
2. A year of #MeToo has done little to change medicine for female physicians – statnews.com
3. 2019 Lifestyle Burnout Depression Study – medscape.com

Terry BauerTerry Bauer is the CEO of Specialdocs Consultants. Terry’s vision of concierge medicine as an innovative and sustainable model for healthcare’s future began in 1999 when he first learned of the business from industry pioneers, and his interest in the sector continued to grow over the years. Learn more about Terry.

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