As our American population ages and the impact of healthcare reform continues to be felt, navigating the medical landscape is only getting more complex for employers and patients. There will be an even greater need for healthcare advisory services in the coming years as patient choices grow more complex and access to appropriate clinicians becomes increasingly difficult.
Now enter, Concierge Medicine and Direct-Pay healthcare options. Consumer and patient interest is also at an all-time high as more and more prosepective and curious patients are starting to enroll in concierge medicine and direct-pay practices. Baby Boomers and Generation X now represent more than half of the U.S. consumer population utilizing such an old-fashioned delivery model of healthcare in modern America.
A mass-market variant of Concierge Medicine, distinguished by its low prices, Direct Primary Care (DPC) is also quite popular by many Gen Xers and the Boomer population. Due to much smaller patient panels than traditional primary care and insurance-based medical practices, DPC doctors say they spend more time with patients discussing treatments, procedures, prescription use and other healthcare options.
Similar to its older familial medical model, Concierge Medicine, Direct-Pay doctors frequently promote the fact that they can provide “unhurried appointments” and same-day access to a physician. Most Direct-Pay medical clinics and doctors with price points under $100 per person per month are slowly gaining traction in the highly competitive healthcare marketplace in the U.S. Direct-Pay Medicine’s strength has not been in the number of physicians signing up to change their business model but in the low monthly fee they charge their patients.
Initially, Concierge Medicine and Direct-Pay doctors were mostly operating in primary care and family practice. The latest data reported by the concierge medicine industry trade journal in 2014 reports that there are an estimated 12,000 Concierge Medicine and Direct-Pay practices nationwide in 2014. While these figures differ somewhat from analysis touted in the media and quoted by other organizations, their number represents primary care and family physicians plus a wide range of Concierge Medicine and Direct-Pay healthcare specialty practices in the U.S. In 2011, there started to be a growing number that practice in secondary Concierge Medicine specialties including: pediatrics; general surgery; psychiatry; spine surgery; gynecology; dentistry; cardiology; addiction medicine; dermatology; oncology and more. These specialty practices usually offer the same immediate access, longer appointments, and a proactive health focus similar to primary care concierge practices. Some also offer home visits. Specialists usually limit their practices to a smaller number of patients -150-300 compared to the more typical 300-750 patients for primary care. They also tend to have patients who have chronic conditions.
Recent industry changes along with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act bringing a sudden influx of recently insured lower-income patients to the doctor’s offices. Primary care and family medicine doctors are listing their prices in menu-like fashion and offering affordable healthcare services and discounts on laboratory tests and examinations for a fraction of the cost seen in most traditional, insurance-based, managed care medical offices. The trade journal found that approximately two-thirds charge less than $135 a month on average. This figure includes primary care, family medicine, osteopath and various specialty physician practices.