In a career that spanned several decades, the late comic Rodney Dangerfield somehow managed to deliver one line over and over and still make audiences laugh. “I don’t get no respect,” he’d say.
Many doctors in traditional practices today feel the same way: Some patients give little respect for their time, knowledge, or efforts.
Concierge practices — whether full or hybrid — change that dynamic. When a patient pays a fee directly to a physician in exchange for enhanced medical services the transaction delivers an unexpected, higher level of respect. And there is an added bonus: Unlike many physicians in more traditional practices, concierge physicians see far fewer patients whom their colleagues might classify as “pains in the neck.”
In addition to seeing fewer “difficult” patients, there are other reasons physicians in concierge programs get more respect from patients. In the past several years, concierge programs have become more affordable and flexible. The typical concierge patient is far removed from the stereotypical image on TV of wealthy, privileged, or demanding.
Forget the Stereotypes
Experience shows that people from all walks of life participate: Patients who are teachers, truck drivers, retirees, entrepreneurs, etc. These patients want to solidify and expand the relationships they have with their physicians and they want convenient and timely availability as well. Respect for individual physicians and the value they bring to health is a big reason why patients choose a concierge model.
Still, many physicians worry that concierge patients will drive them crazy with questions and demands on their time. This is a legitimate concern given that most concierge doctors give patients their cell phone numbers! But over seven years, our experience has shown that patients who pay for concierge care are less likely to make unnecessary calls than those in the general patient population. Patients know they can get information readily during the day, and are therefore less anxious about reaching their physicians, especially after hours unless it is a true emergency.
Time on Your Side
Of course, it’s not just respect physicians want and need; it’s time. Full concierge programs — where practices range from 200 to 600 patients — reduce a physician’s workload dramatically.
The workload is higher in a hybrid than in a full concierge model. In a hybrid model, physicians often see the same number of patients — far more than their colleagues see in full-model concierge program. However, because of an added private source of revenue, they are in a better position to manage their traditional volume and not let it manage them.
Plus, hybrid concierge physicians will tell you they simply know how to work smarter. Every practice has ways to adjust to the hybrid model changes. Sometimes it comes from other physicians, or from extenders, or from small scheduling changes. Often it comes from controlling the level of new patients. No matter what the adjustment, physicians offering a hybrid model will tell you the workday is more enjoyable and they have more time for their entire practice and themselves.
Having more time also cures many of the operational ills of a practice. Concierge physicians have the time to be true coordinators of their patients care; they don’t have to pass the ball to another provider. Time also eliminates anxiety on both sides of the patient/physician relationship.
And one last comment: For those primary-care physicians who continue to strive to offer a more personalized practice with or without a concierge program, as they become more rare, they become more valuable to the public. I believe that offering an option that places value on your time and skills not only adds economic stability and strength to your practice, it also creates a much higher level of respect.
You offer real value to your patients and your practice. Finding ways to tap into that value in the coming years brings benefits to you and to your practice. Models that highlight that value and that attract patients who appreciate what you offer will help set your practice apart, and help make sure you never feel like our old friend Rodney Dangerfield.
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