Top 5 Questions Physicians Ask Before Converting to Concierge Medicine

While many solutions have been proffered for restoring the revered physician-patient relationship, concierge medicine is unique in capturing its essence in a viable, sustainable model.

This has been clear to physicians and patients nationwide, mutually frustrated by the limitations and drawbacks of traditional fee-for-service, volume-based practices, and many of whom are now enjoying the numerous and substantial benefits of concierge medicine.

For more than 20 years, Specialdocs Consultants has been privy to the considerations raised by thousands of physicians as they ponder a transformative conversion to our concierge medicine model.

Whether sparked by a reluctance to change, or a need to dig deep and explore the keys to success, we respect that all their questions come from a place of caring – for their patients, families, staff, colleagues, and ultimately, themselves.

As a companion piece to our previous look at the Top 5 Questions Asked by Prospective Concierge Patients, we hope the insights shared below create a meaningful snapshot of the current and future state of physician-empowered, patient-centered care.

1. Am I too young / too old to convert to concierge medicine?

At Specialdocs, we’ve collaborated with physicians at every stage of their career to successfully make the change to a concierge model. The face of concierge medicine has evolved to reflect the diversity of our population, buffeted on one side by a thriving group of aging Baby Boomers and midlife Gen Xers and on the other by an enormous cohort of rising Millennials.

Younger physicians are thrilled by the promise of practicing medicine their way for decades to come; older physicians appreciate the career-extending opportunity of caring for a dramatically smaller panel of patients.

Examples abound, from a 37-year-old family physician in Atlanta who rapidly built a growing practice after his departure from hospital employment, to a Michigan-based concierge rheumatologist who made the change at age 71 and continually receives requests from prospective patients to be placed on the lengthy wait list.

We have also witnessed a stunning increase in the number of female Specialdocs-affiliated physicians, drawn to the exceptional work-life balance offered by a concierge practice. Women physicians are converting to our model earlier in their careers than their male counterparts, at an average age of 45.

2. Can I successfully make the change to concierge medicine if I’m currently employed in a hospital, health system or medical group?

We’ve helped a growing number of doctors wanting to launch a concierge medicine practice within their current employment relationship or strike out on their own and still maintain a cordial relationship with their previous employers.

The Specialdocs team supports our physician clients throughout this often challenging conversion, helping them navigate the initial discussion with hospital administrators and management and carefully developing a workable strategy that satisfies all constituents.

We also understand how overwhelming it can feel to start your own practice and provide experienced assistance at every step, from financing and finding an optimal location, to credentialing and IT, phone and EMR setup, staffing, and lease negotiations to conducting a final, pre-launch run through and support throughout the entire lifecycle of the practice.

3. I already offer concierge level care to my patients, so why will they pay a membership fee?

While this may seem like a daunting challenge for dedicated physicians who’ve been working tirelessly after hours, providing extraordinary care before conversion is one of the best indicators for success in the concierge medicine model.

Patients who have experienced the type of care they want, from the doctor who knows them best, will be extremely reluctant to sever their connection.

We encourage and guide physician clients to present membership as a valuable investment for patients to make in their future health and well-being, ensuring them peace of mind that your advocacy and counsel are just a phone call away.

As many patients know all too well from their encounters with a fragmented, dysfunctional healthcare system, help is not readily available at crowded urgent cares, packed emergency rooms or traditional fee-for-service, volume focused practices with months-long waits for appointments. Patients are often aware and openly supportive of why their physician has decided to change the model and practice in a more humane and sustainable way.

A related concern voiced by prospective concierge physicians is whether offering patients 24/7 direct availability will mean constant interruptions after hours or on vacations.

We are so gratified to be able to reassure them that virtually all our physician-clients say just the opposite is true due to many factors including the optimal messaging and communications we provide on our clients’ behalf.  Also, patients are more inclined to be respectful of their doctor’s private time and in some cases, wait too long to reach out so as not to disturb them.

Stress-free vacations are also possible with a bit of planning: ask a trusted associate who’s covered for you previously to be on call for urgent issues, and email your patients with information about the arrangements well in advance.

Again, we hear from our network of affiliated physicians that patients appreciate their need to enjoy time away, and contact the physician or ask the office to do so only in emergent situations.

4. Do I need to add a wide variety of “bells and whistles” to convince people to enroll in my concierge practice?

The proliferation of full body scans, early detection cancer tests, remote patient monitoring, body composition analysis devices and the like, have unquestionably raised patient expectations for offerings at a concierge medicine practice.

While our affiliated physicians have long focused on advancements in prevention and longevity care, they take an extremely cautious and evidence-based approach on behalf of their patients.

Successful enhancements have included health coaching, weight management programs, a part time nutritionist, selected aesthetic procedures, and judicious use of new preventive testing, but they are rarely the inspiration for enrollment or retention

Instead, it is the foundations of concierge medicine to include individualized care, prompt attention, extended appointments, and the opportunity to build a meaningful, long-term physician-patient relationship, that remain the most compelling reasons for people to join a practice.

5. Can I convert to a concierge medicine model on my own?

As every one of our physician clients will attest, the answer is an unequivocal “no” unless they have their own experienced team of advisors, consultants, lawyers, IT staff, practice management support systems and the patience to see their practices enroll at a much slower pace.

For both formerly employed and independent physicians, the complexity managing the membership enrollment and engagement processes, billing and collecting related fees, staying in compliance with regulations related to defining billable services, in-network insurance coverage, patient privacy, website security and other issues are just some of the aspects of converting to a membership style practice where expert guidance is needed.

The process of messaging to all involved in your change to concierge medicine also benefits from an experienced concierge medicine management services partner who can create a nuanced approach tailored to your practice and your community.

When to tell staff, how to keep them motivated during the conversion, and training them to care for patients in a new and highly personalized way is key to maintaining the good reputation of your practice.

Likewise, fully understanding how to address patients’ concerns, and inspire those who become members to champion your new model can mean the difference between an in-demand, growing practice or a slow ramp up.

If you have additional questions regarding concierge medicine as to whether you’d be a good candidate for success in this model, we encourage you to take the first step and fill out our brief STEP evaluation which helps us assess your current operations and potential for realizing success as a concierge doctor.

Patients Increasingly Seeking Concierge Care

In the past five years, concierge medicine has witnessed a notable evolution, transitioning from a specialized service to a widely adopted approach. Physicians are driven by discontent with a healthcare system that’s increasingly dysfunctional, while patients are acknowledging the benefits of maintaining a continuous relationship with their trusted physician.

Concierge medicine presents an opportunity to offer your patients the individualized care they crave, while simultaneously giving you the ability to achieve a rare work-life balance. Our exclusive infographic outlines the numerous advantages of concierge medicine and its appeal to a growing number of patients actively seeking improved care and long-term well-being.

Access and download it now to gain insights into this burgeoning healthcare model!

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