Concierge Medicine: A New Approach to Healthcare

The inefficiencies of the current state of our health care system are well known, and as general practices and physicians have had to take on an increasing number of patients in an effort just to meet their budgetary needs, it is the quality of interaction with their patients that has been sacrificed. In an effort to return that focus back toward patient-centered care, the idea of Concierge Medicine has emerged.

“It is a way of looking beyond the insurance model, which is come and be seen, pay your copay, I’ll bill the rest, wait for payment, and we’ll do it all over again once something else is wrong,” explains Dr. Jeffery Baird of Utopia Primary Care.

“Instead, let’s change the equation and agree that there is a direct relationship between the patient and the physician. That agreement will allow the doctor to have a smaller patient panel, which allows them to spend more time with each patient, the flexibility to have same-day appointments if needed, or even just speak to people over the phone or via email. The focus can then shift to more preventative care, which inherently is more satisfying for both the patient and the physician.”

Having quietly grown in popularity over the last decade, the way Concierge Medicine works is pretty simple: A patient pays an upfront membership fee. In return, the physician provides not only a predetermined amount of both office and hospital visits, but also availability over the phone or email for those instances where an office visit may not be necessary.

For times where a patient may need or prefer to go in, because the membership is capped, in Dr. Baird’s case, 99-percent of the time he says he can fit someone in for a same-day appointment.

“The traditional insurance model doesn’t provide for reimbursement for ‘Hey, I’ve got a quick question so I’ll shoot you an email,’” says Dr. Baird. “In my system, if that’s all we have to do, well then great, that’s easier for everybody.”

The convenience factor is one of the major selling points of Concierge Medicine when it comes to presenting it to perspective patients. For Dr. Baird, the majority of his patients are busy professionals for whom time is money, in a very literal sense, and they do not have enough to spare sitting in a waiting room for an hour or more just for a few minutes of face time with their doctor.

Though Concierge Medicine removes the insurance company from the patient/physician relationship, it is still recommended that individuals maintain sufficient coverage to help cover things such as x-rays, lab work, hospital stays and other services.

After 23 years under a more “traditional” insurance-based practice, Dr. Baird had to serve notice to his more than 3,200 patients in 2014 when he decided to start Utopia Primary Care. There he has capped his membership to the first 400 who sign up.

“I think as people continue to get more and more frustrated with how they get coverage and how expensive it is, especially for how little you can get in return, and with as busy as everyone has become, that they are ready for a different way of doing things,” says Dr. Baird.

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