The year 2017, whether viewed through a professional or personal lens, has been a truly memorable one. As I look back on what we have accomplished this year, and the many opportunities created, I feel pride, gratitude and excitement. Without question, the highlight of the year has been working with our growing network of exceptional physicians – special docs in every sense of the term. Our team’s role in helping our clients change their practice models, with direct impact on their professional and personal lives, and in turn, on their patients’ health and wellness, is deeply meaningful.
Still, there were multiple challenges in 2017 that affect the survival of the independent primary care physician, the linchpin of our healthcare system. Reimbursement is caught in a continuous downward spiral while regulations and administrative requirements became even more onerous. Hospitals still selectively seek to acquire primary care practices and offer an employment track to physicians, albeit at a somewhat slower tempo; health insurers, however, seem to be picking up their pace of acquiring large physician enterprises. All things combined, the career trajectory for many independent primary care physicians remains dicey.
What do we see in 2018? While no one can claim a crystal ball predicting with 100 percent accuracy, we are certain the same issues we have seen for the past several years will continue to challenge both patients and physicians.
Patients, faced with higher deductibles and rising premiums, will be forced to take even more control of their healthcare investments by aligning with the right providers to ensure quality, cost-effective care. In addition, all patients should continue to thoroughly research their financial and clinical options and determine what is best for their short and long-term health and wellness.
Unfortunately, independent physicians are left with the following alternatives:
- Grind it out, increasingly dissatisfied
- Retire earlier than planned
- Seek employment from a hospital or insurer
- Find another career path
- Explore a change to a concierge or membership medicine model.
Concierge medicine has increasingly been sought as a solution for physicians who want to sustain their calling as an independent private practitioner. For these physicians, changing to a concierge practice makes it much more likely they will achieve the Quadruple Aim, as established by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. The four tenets that form the foundation of this highly effective model are:
- improving the patient experience of care,
- improving the health of populations,
- reducing the per capita cost of health care and importantly,
- improving the work lives of clinicians and staff.
Guiding physicians through their conversion to concierge medicine has gone well beyond simply improving their work lives, but transforming and sustaining them…as Specialdocs has done for the last 15 years. I am thrilled to recognize and celebrate this remarkable accomplishment in a sector that has changed significantly every year since its inception. From our earliest days, inspired by founder Roberta Greenspan’s visionary concept, Specialdocs has thrived by preserving what matters most to independent physicians: strengthen the relationship with their patients, practice the best medicine of their career, and achieve a genuine work-life balance. I realize that for all its benefits, concierge medicine may not be the right fit for everyone, but we are privileged to assist physicians who have chosen this as the best solution for their practice and their lives. For patients, the unique bond with a highly qualified and committed physician is proving irreplaceable when it comes to good health and wellness.
Making the transition is nothing short of life changing for our clients, and for that reason, requires a good amount of thoughtful consideration. Some physicians wrestle with the decision for years, and we thoroughly respect their timetable. This year, one of our most delighted physician clients told us that he might well have been the last remaining independent internist in his community. He had resisted making the change for more than a decade, but ultimately reached a point where too little time, a growing panel of patients with complex issues and relentlessly mounting piles of paperwork made it all but impossible to continue in a traditional practice. As a dedicated physician since the early ‘80s, providing exquisitely attentive care was the only acceptable approach, and concierge medicine proved to be exactly the right option for him and his patients.
We are looking forward to 2018 with real enthusiasm, as we have a number of initiatives to help our clients continue to flourish, including:
- Significant enhancement of each practice’s online presence
- Introduction of additional ways to streamline practice operations and control costs
- Exploration and experimentation with innovative technology focused on improving the physician-patient experience
- Support of practice growth with offerings to further enhance personalization of care
Challenges are inevitable, but the rewards of working in this unique industry have never been greater. As all who have dealt with the healthcare system realize, even a well-informed patient can benefit from a knowledgeable, compassionate caregiver to guide them on a complex, confusing journey. For increasing numbers of Americans, a concierge physician will lead the way.
All of us at Specialdocs wish that your 2018 is a year of great health, prosperity and joy.