Are Concierge Medical Services on the Upswing?

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , April 29, 2010

While running her pediatric practice years ago in St. Louis, MO, she was seeing up to 35 patients a day for about 10 minutes each. "Once I realized how much time my staff was spending on third party payrolls, and then I added that cost up for the year and over the years, it was so sickening," she says.

That's when she decided to launch her personal practice, with a "six or seven house call day," she says. She is moving her business office to San Francisco, and hired a CEO to run the company, which includes about 10 physicians scattered throughout the country, as well as the Dominican Republic and Peru. There is one physician based in Chicago who's targeting executive healthcare, another in Iowa focusing on elderly care, she says.

"You have a completely paperless loop, between patient and physician," she says. "You have high level communications. Patients supplant their records from Google PHR or Microsoft or whatever. Patients pay membership fees like they do for their cell phones or other Web-based services." The average acceptable price for consumers is about $125 a month, she says.

"Patients of course still need some kind of health insurance, but they don't have to be exorbitant," she says. "They need a high deductible plan to cover them for cancer or being hit by a bus or being in the ICU for two months. Remember insurers don't provide services. I provide services. The physician."

My former physician, a terrific guy, told me a few years ago he was getting out of his practice, tired of the insurance hassles, and was opting for the concierge route. When he finally left, he invited me to join his other patients as part of his concierge business.

After our private conversation, he sent a letter. It was going to be a lot of money, the fixed amount, each month. In return, I would get his personal care, and lengthy individual appointments. I evaluated it. After some thought, I didn't think it was worth it. The last time I left his office, I thought, "Oh well, I'll be looking for another doctor."

I have a feeling Natalie Hodge wouldn't accept that, and would keep working to get potential patients like me on board.

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Joe Cantlupe is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media Online.

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