Is Concierge Medicine Right for You?
Concierge medical care is no longer just for the wealthy.
More affordable concierge medicine models are gaining popularity as more patients seek to take control of their health care.
Why are so many Americans (more than 1.5 million) paying their doctor upfront for more personalized and attentive medical care?
Dr. Steven Montague is a board-certified doctor in family medicine at EvergreenHealth Signature Care, a concierge medical practice in Kirkland.
He's here to explain what concierge medicine is, and share the questions to consider when determining if this type of care is right for you and your family.
How is concierge medicine different than traditional primary care?
Dr. Steven Montague: Concierge medicine got its birth right here in Seattle and has since grown to include many varieties of concierge medicine or what we like to refer to as personalized medicine or signature care.
The most traditional models involve a fee in addition to insurance payments for direct access to a physician.
Others, such as direct primary care, require a fee and offer a similar level of access, but do not involve insurance.
In general, most personalized medicine practices feature:
- Scheduling convenience, shorter wait times for appointments and 24/7 access to physicians, including medical advice while traveling.
- Low patient to doctor ratios that lead to increased face time. This allows your doctor to be in tune with your health habits and the other genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors influencing your wellness.
- Focus on personalized and preventative medicine in addition to treatment of any medical issues. Many practices also often include access to dietitians and exercise physiologists.
- Greater coordination between specialists.
What are some other things to consider?
Dr. Montague: It is important for individuals to carefully weigh whether joining a personalized medical practice is the right fit for them or their family.
To help gain perspective on whether you might benefit from the extra level or care or if personalized medicine might be a cost-effective option for your family, you can:
Assess your current medical care.
- If you are happy with your current doctor, can get an appointment when you need one and don’t feel rushed during appointments, the extra cost of a concierge practice might not make sense.
- Rather if you want to be able to communicate with your physician regularly outside of appointments, concierge medicine might offer the personal attention you seek.
Consider your health.
- A personalized medical approach might not be necessary if you only see your doctor for an annual physical or an occasional sore throat. However, those with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease may benefit from the extra level of care coordination and the more frequent, longer visits.
- It’s also worth checking out concierge medicine if incorporating overall wellness, including regular nutrition and exercise consultations, into your partnership with your primary care provider is important to you.
Weigh the cost
- Consider if the benefits of an increased relationship with your doctor justify the extra cost. Since many health insurance options are moving toward high-deductible plans, concierge care may offer annual cost-savings in some cases.
- It’s also important to keep in mind that some tests and screenings may be included, but you may have to go to another specialist and pay for others outside of the concierge practice.
What are good questions to ask before signing up for a personalized medical service?
Dr. Montague:Since every personalized medical practice is different, I’d encourage anyone interested in joining one to do their research.
First, make sure you “click” with the provider and then work to understand what services they do and do not offer.
A few good questions to start with include:
- Does the practice take insurance and will they file claims for you?
- What services does the fee include?
- Does the practice offer preventive care?
- Can you schedule same-day appointments?
- Can you contact your provider by email or phone with routine questions?
- Will the provider coordinate my care if I need one or more specialists?
- Does the provider make house calls?
Can you share some examples of services you offer patients in your practice at EvergreenHealth?
Our Signature Care practice in Kirkland offers all of the features of personalized medicine I mentioned earlier.
We also include quarterly visits with an exercise physiologist and nutritionist.
Each patient has their own Health & Wellness coach which is an important part of our practice.
We also hold private health classes for patients on site, including a yoga class I often participate in myself.
You practiced in a traditional family medicine practice before, so why did you choose to become a personalized medicine provider?
Dr. Montague: My partner and I operated a small private practice in Woodinville with two goals – 1) to treat our patients as if they were family members, and 2) to have fun while doing it.
When we grew up to 10,000 patients it was more than we could offer under a traditional practice model and we decided to change our approach to better suit our patients.
The personalized medicine model we developed ultimately met the way we wanted to practice medicine.