The Price of Pampering

By: Carley Borrelli

Concierge medical services: home visits, same-day appointments and comprehensive medical services all at the lift of a finger. These services are only the beginning of what new concierge medical services promise their patients—for a price.

A concierge medical practice is a practice that charges a standard annual fee for membership before you can be seen by a doctor. This fee allows patients access to the doctor’s personal phone number and email, all while promising same-day appointments and other services. These practices are able to offer such comprehensive care by reducing the size of their client base and increasing the cost of medical services for those enrolled. Many private practice internists are considering switching to a concierge practice, as it sounds like a dream come true for both parties.

Some benefits to switching to a concierge practice include fewer patients and higher salaries for internists in private practice. This model benefits patients as well. Concierge practices offer many options for home visits, guaranteed same-day appointments, new treatments such as genome mapping and other specific consultations. Patients feel pampered with such detailed care and personal attention. This type of practice can be extremely beneficial to those with multiple medical conditions who may need special care. Doctors in a concierge practice strive to look at the overall health of the patient and use preventative care to develop an action plan for the patient’s wellness.

However, this sudden trend can be disconcerting to those without extra funds to spare. In addition to medical insurance costs, the hefty membership fee runs from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.  These fees are simply not affordable for many individuals and families and do not include any tests or procedures the doctor might order.

Also, concierge practices can serve fewer patients than traditional practices.  Many patients that were once served at concierge practices are turned away and must find a new internist. This can lead to overcrowding of other medical offices in the area.

As concierge practices can be expensive, most will open in middle to upper-class areas.

With the opening of concierge practices, the demand will go up for internists in these communities. Doctors may be tempted to move to these areas and serve these communities due to a heightened salary and fewer patients served. This concierge set-up rewards doctors for serving those in middle and upper-class community when low-income areas need them just as dearly. The need for doctors in these poorer areas will increase as concierge services expand and the rich continue to widen the gap in quality of healthcare services.

Concierge practices can be beneficial to patients that do not mind paying extra money out-of-pocket or those who have numerous medical conditions. However, for the majority of patients, these services threaten the current medical setup, are not affordable and may lead to an increased shortage of doctors. Their intent is just, but the setup divides the quality of healthcare services by income, which is unfair to the patient. Concierge services will fuel the growth of the increasing gap in medical services between the rich and the poor and patients without the money for a shiny new membership will pay the price.