What Is a Concierge Physician?
If you have suffered through a major injury, invasive surgery, or a debilitating illness, you’ll probably be relieved when you are discharged from the hospital and can return to the comfort of your home. Yet this transition can be fraught with difficulties. What do you do if your pain medicine stops working? What if, despite wound care, your injury isn’t healing? Nurses, aides, and other home health staff can help with a lot of difficult problems, but there are some problems that only physicians have the training and the legal permission to address, such as writing prescriptions. But you’ll need to wait for an appointment … unless you employ a concierge physician from UCLAHHC.
For many people, seeing a doctor involves more idle waiting rather than health care: you call on the phone and wait for someone to pick up. You’re given an appointment for which you’ll have to wait, sometimes for weeks. Then you gather your things, drive to the office, then wait until he or she is ready to see you. But with the concierge medicine model, waiting is reduced to almost nothing. Doctors in this model have smaller caseloads than traditional practices, meaning patients spend less time waiting and more time receiving care. What’s more, some concierge services, like that offered by UCLAHHC, offer in-home doctor visits, meaning patients can continue to receive excellent care even at home.
How Do I Pay?
Unlike a traditional practice, where each visit to a office is charged, the service of a concierge practice is billed as a retainer: you pay a fee at regular intervals, and this fee covers most of the primary care you might need. Some services take payments through insurance, but others rely only on the retainer fee.
Hiring a concierge service is not a replacement for insurance coverage, however. The retainer fee will not cover emergency room visits. Nor will it cover specialists or some services, such as x-rays—even if they are ordered by the concierge doctor. For these reasons, it is vitally important that patients maintain Medicare or an equivalent private insurance, so they won’t be saddled with large, unexpected costs related to their treatment.
What Can I Expect?
There are no special requirements physicians must meet to work in a concierge practice; it’s a different business model rather than a different medical specialty. They have all the same training as doctors in traditional practices.
Your concierge doctor will do all the things you expect: performing physical exams, giving intramuscular injections and IVs, writing prescriptions, and ordering tests. Even if the service does not accept any form of insurance, it must follow the rules set by Medicare, including limits on what it can charge for services that would be covered by Medicare elsewhere.
As mentioned above, concierge practices have much fewer patients than traditional practices. This means two things for the patient:
- Less waiting. With fewer patients to see, concierge doctors don’t have to schedule appointments weeks in advance. It is not uncommon for UCLAHHC’s physicians to squeeze an urgent appointment into the next day, or even the same day.
- Longer visits. In a traditional practice, the doctor spends only about fifteen minutes with each patient—barely enough to finish with the pleasantries. Concierge doctors, however, spend twice that length of time with each patient. Longer visits mean more time to examine the patient and ensure that he or she is receiving the best quality of care.
These two points explain the attraction of concierge care. A traditional office might make you wait weeks for your appointment, even if you’re experiencing significant discomfort. And if you had a blood test, you might wait for weeks to see your test results. Want to talk about those results with a health care professional? Make another appointment and wait another several weeks. Interminable waiting is not an issue in concierge care.
Another upside is the unlimited primary care patients receive. You’re not billed for each visit; primary care is covered by the retainer fee. For patients who need to visit the doctor frequently, like those with heart problems, concierge medicine might be well worth the fee.
Concierge health care providers offer their services in a variety of settings. You can visit the doctor in the office (less time spent waiting, though), but for less urgent issues, they are often directly available by phone, email, or teleconferencing. Some services like UCLAHHC can even perform house calls.
In-Home Doctor Visits
To some, house calls seem like an antiquated or unrealistic form of medical care, belonging more to old black-and-white television shows rather than the modern age. There is some truth to that: house calls comprised half of all doctors’ visits in the thirties and forties but only one percent of visits in the eighties. Since then, however, they have become more common as the concierge medicine model slowly expanded.
The benefits of house calls are obvious. Home health providers like UCLAHHC know that patient comfort is a critical part of recovery. Bundling an injured or unwell patient into a car to visit the office is not likely to be what’s best for her. It’s much better if she can stay at home and have the doctor come to her, and it’s much less stressful for family caregivers as well.
Our doctors don’t work alone, and before a house call, the doctor will review the patient’s health care plan to learn the patient’s condition, prognosis, and current treatments. Once in the patient’s home, the doctor can do almost anything that he can do at the office. He or she can instruct the managing nurse and other health care workers on how to provide the best possible care, draw blood for testing, prescribe new medications or intravenous therapy, and offer guidance to the patient and the family. And it is all done in the patient’s home, in comfort, with no disruptions caused by transporting the patient elsewhere.
Best of all, patients receive dedicated care on demand by employing one of UCLAHHC’s concierge physicians. With them, our patients receive top-quality health care with a minimum of waiting and fuss, all while staying in the comfort of their homes. To learn more about our concierge doctors, contact UCLAHHC today.