Concierge doctors well positioned to weather COVID-19 uncertainties
By Keith Elgart is the COO of Concierge Choice Physicians, the largest private provider of the full range of concierge programs available today.
The Covid-19 crisis has put a level of financial strain on independent medical practices like never before. What, if anything, can a medical practice can do to protect themselves from the kind of healthcare catastrophe that is oddly keeping patients out of their office? When so many practices are struggling, it can be difficult to focus on what’s working, but perhaps now is the best time for physicians to look toward ways to generate stable revenue outside of patient visits and services.
This may seem contrary to the business of medicine-doctors earn revenue by charging for services provided at patient visits. But, actually, not all doctors and not all practices earn revenue in only that manner. Physicians with concierge or membership models of care have found themselves well positioned to weather the Covid-19 storm. They have a built-in, private, stable revenue source that exists independent of patient visits. This revenue source has allowed these physicians to maintain a steady and stable income despite all of the uncertainty in the marketplace.
Concierge medicine programs have never been more valuable to physicians, and to their patients as well. For physicians, the benefits are significant and obvious-the income generated keeps their practice on solid ground. But there is even more to it than revenue. In a healthcare crisis, concierge doctors are able to practice the kind of highly personalized, proactive healthcare they were trained to practice. They are granted the gift of time-time to study the virus and how it’s affecting their community, time to communicate with patients and their loved ones, and time to offer the peace of mind that can really only come from a trusted doctor.
Our client, a private primary care physician in North Carolina, has been sending weekly notices to his patients, keeping them up-to-date with the latest available research, advice for keeping healthy and fit during the crisis, and all-important messages to keep positive. His patients appreciate the outreach and have peace of mind knowing their doctor is just a phone call away. He has never been happier he started his concierge practice, saying recently, “I have time to review all of the latest medical research and communicate with my patients. I wouldn’t be able to do that if it wasn’t for my concierge program. I probably wouldn’t be in business if not for my concierge program.”
For many patients, particularly seniors who, for their own safety must be separated from their loved ones, this connectivity is invaluable. We are seeing memberships tick up daily. There has never been more patient interest in concierge medicine. When people are worried and feeling alone, they don’t want to call an anonymous urgent care center, they want the doctor they know and trust, and they are willing to invest in that relationship. Adult children of aging parents want to know that mom and dad have someone looking out for them, someone their parents wouldn’t hesitate to call if something was wrong.
“We thank our lucky stars for our concierge program,” says the practice manager from one of our New Jersey clients. Their practice has both a full model concierge physician who treats almost exclusively members, and a hybrid concierge physician, who sees both traditional and concierge patients. As one of the few remaining private practices in the area, their concierge programs are helping to keep them afloat.
The move toward telemedicine also puts concierge physicians in a good position. They tend to know their members personally, understand their lifestyle and their standard presentation. They can pick up on any change in nuance, tone or mood. They know their patient’s health history and may feel more comfortable diagnosing or prescribing medications. There is a personal relationship built on trust on the other end of the phone, not an anonymous 1-800 health provider.
They say necessity is the mother of invention and, now more than ever, physicians need to think of ways to keep their practices stable today and for the future. If you’re a doctor with reduced office hours or a closed practice, take some time to explore alternative practice arrangements. There are many new and proven approaches that don’t require you to change your entire practice or dismiss patients, something you especially might not wish to do during a healthcare crisis.
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