Earlier this year, I decided to work with Dr. Mark Chavez, MD as my concierge physician. Concierge medicine is a healthcare delivery model in which patients pay a fee to access enhanced and personalized medical care usually from a provider outside of their insurance network. The fee is normally paid “out of pocket.” In my case, I can make payments from a health savings account which is nice since it’s pre-tax money.
In the US we have choices regarding our primary healthcare provider. Most choose a provider from their insurance network that provides benefits such as annual physician exams. Of course, not everyone has insurance but many providers will accept cash for services from uninsured patients. There are other options including a pure subscription model such as GoForward, where a monthly fee provides access to the GoForward network and their concierge doctors. The emergency room is often the provider of last resort for those without insurance or the means to pay for services.
From a patient’s perspective, the benefits of a concierge doctor are:
More appointments and reduced wait times. Patients in concierge practices typically have greater access to their healthcare providers. They can often meet with their provider much more frequently than a traditional insurance model-based physician. Concierge providers usually offer both in-person and telemedicine options. Patients in concierge medicine practices generally experience little or no wait times, which makes for a much more pleasant experience.
More time with your doctor. Physicians in concierge medicine spend more time with you during appointments. The higher frequency of visits and longer appointment times allow for more in-depth discussions about health concerns, family history, lifestyle factors affecting health, and the patient’s short-term and long-term health goals.
Personalized, preventive care focusing on patient-specific goals. The extra time allows for a more personalized, preventative approach producing tailored treatment plans focusing on patient-specific goals. Routine and enhanced screenings can be used to get to the root of the problem and help guide the treatment plan.
Potentially better health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs. The emphasis on preventive care, wellness, and longevity oftentimes leads to better long-term health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs over time.
Additional Services: Some concierge practices offer additional services and treatments, such as stem cell injections, medical weight loss, and non-standard diagnostic testing which can further enhance the patient experience and value.
From the provider’s perspective, the benefits of concierge medicine are:
Better doctor-patient relationships: Concierge medicine allows doctors to have smaller patient loads so they can spend more time with each patient. This results in better communication and higher quality relationships. This means your doctor has a deeper understanding of your medical history, lifestyle, preferences, and health goals.
Personalizing care for patients: Concierge doctors can tailor their treatment plans to the unique needs and preferences of each patient, also called precision medicine. They work more closely with you to develop personalized treatment and health plans and are better able to monitor your progress and change up the treatment plan when needed to achieve better outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Reduced administrative burden: With fewer patients to manage, and by bypassing insurers since the vast majority don’t accept insurance, concierge doctors spend less time on administrative tasks such as billing and dealing with insurers. This means less stress and less burnout for your doctor, which makes for better medicine.
Ability to innovate: Concierge doctors have much more freedom to innovate their practice, explore advanced medical technologies, and stay at the forefront of healthcare trends and technologies.
Professional satisfaction: Doctors in concierge medicine often report higher levels of job satisfaction because they can practice medicine without the boundaries imposed by insurers, which aligns much more closely with their values and allows them to provide a higher level of care.
It’s important to note that concierge medicine is not without its criticisms and challenges, including concerns about access disparities and affordability. From what I have seen in a couple of different major markets, most practitioners charge an annual fee from a few thousand dollars and up. Access to elite concierge doctors can cost tens of thousands annually.
Patients who can afford the fees benefit, but this model is not accessible to everyone. Additionally, some argue that concierge medicine exacerbates healthcare inequalities by creating a two-tiered system of care. A counter argument for this is: the people who are able to pay initially usher in more affordable solutions for everyone else.
In my case, I had been under the care of several insurance doctors, a couple of concierge doctors, and a naturopathic doctor (ND). I had also experienced Go Forward’s subscription model. One of my concierge doctors retired and the other moved from a per visit pricing plan to a significantly more expensive annual plan.
When I moved to AZ I changed insurance providers and after a year that provider moved out of state and I was looking for someone that could help me with my unique health and longevity goals.
I had known Dr. Chavez personally for several years, but had never been under his care. I approached him to see if he would be interested in working with me and he agreed. Since we started working together, I was able to get some specialized testing done looking at my coronary arteries and my stress and sex hormone levels. I was also able to experiment with some specialized medications specifically for the purpose of extending both healthspan and lifespan and slowing the aging process.
I have kept detailed records of my blood work and medical history for the last 25 years and provided Dr. Chavez with this along with my family history, a year’s worth of sleep data, and current exercise and nutrition routines. We set aggressive metabolic goals and have been working on those including glucose monitoring with a continuous glucose monitor.
In the case I need to use insurance for a major event, I still maintain a relationship with a doctor covered by my insurance.
I appreciate the time and attention that all of my concierge physicians have provided me. I feel I get better direction and clarification of direction compared with the very brief, usually annual, encounters with my insurance-assigned doctor.
The decision to align with a concierge doctor makes sense if you have the financial resources. This is saying the obvious though plenty of wealthy people do not have concierge doctors, which speaks to their priorities. I am far from wealthy, but I prioritize my health and believe that the long-term value that I obtain from concierge care outweighs the short-term costs.
Written by Greg Damian: I am a 61-year-old author, motivational speaker, health and fitness disruptor and a coach. My book, Abs at 60: The Four Steps to Look and Feel Younger at Any Age is now available on Amazon. My mission is to help men over 50 to overcome perceived limits of their age to look and feel younger. I do this by applying my four step DOLR(TM) system that is described in the book. Each chapter has a set of questions for you to answer. You can download a free workbook that includes all of these questions at www.absat60.com
Edited by Mark Chavez, MD, AKA The Health MD. Health Coaching and Concierge Physician practicing “Goal Directed Health and Longevity Medicine.” Inventor of The Gravity Ball Method of Grip-Free Resistance Exercise. Author of the book The 5 Habits of Healthy People.