In the midst of the major changes happening in the human medical industry, I’ve been very interested in a new business model for human physicians. It’s being called “concierge medicine” or “direct care medicine.”
Concierge medicine is set up so that patients pay a fee directly to the doctor on an annual (or monthly) basis. This fee gives the patient direct access to the doctor and medical staff. In some cases, this means that your physician is available to speak directly to you. In others, it means that you get a certain number of visits per year for preventative care. There are a ton of variations, but the primary difference between this and the common model we experience is that you get more direct and frequent access to the doctor.
Fees for concierge medicine vary from $600 to $5000 according to the figures I found with some basic searching online. Keep in mind that for some human practices, this is IN ADDITION to what you pay for insurance. In others, that fee is paid to the doctor and includes a certain amount of care, with insurance never entering the arrangement.
I have a customary arrangement with my physicians. I’ve never had the doctor call me back personally about lab results. When I call, I don’t get to speak to the doctor. If I have an emergency, they route me to the urgent care facility or the ER. If I’m feeling sick and need an appointment right away, I’m almost always routed to the urgent care facility. They also don’t ever send me reminders for when I’m due for regular services.
The advantages of the concierge plan are touted mainly because humans have more ways and opportunities to interact with their physician. Communication tools like Skype, email, and traditional phone calls can all get you in touch with your doctor. As I was reading through a couple of articles about concierge medicine, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow, they’re starting to catch up.” Veterinarians have been doing this all along!
At our hospital, I think we do a pretty good job of bucking the ‘normal’ of human practice. Doctors call clients back with blood results or other lab results. Those results are usually available the next day instead of a weeks later. We’re almost always available to speak directly to clients. We do our best to work in any sick pets the same day. (Now and then we do have to refer to the ER for extremely serious problems or major surgeries.) We also send reminders (maybe too many? 🙂 ) to let owners know when pets are due for care. The only drawback to our model is that we don’t have a doctor available outside normal business hours. It’s something I’d like to address in the future.
The best part about how most veterinary hospitals operate is that you get all of these benefits at no extra cost. It’s part of why I’m proud of our profession. We’re a great example of a lot of things that are good and right about medical practices.
What are your thoughts on how human and veterinary medicine can better serve clients and patients?