As COVID-19 continues to spread and the number of those affected by the virus grows, much of our attention has focused on those in the medical profession — emergency department doctors, nurses, EMTs, anesthesiologists, first responders, and primary care physicians. It has become increasingly clear that the group of doctors that seems to be riding out this storm better than most are direct primary care and concierge physicians.
Concierge Medicine is a model that allows more flexibility than traditional fee-for-service practices because physicians work directly for patients and eliminate third-party payers like Medicare, Medicaid, and insurance companies. Most concierge practices are set up as memberships, with patients paying an annual or monthly fee directly to their doctor for all primary care health care services. One of the many benefits of this type of model for primary care medicine comes with the easy access patients have to their physician, including being able to make an appointment when needed and not having to go through the hassle of a hotline or phone system to get in touch with a physician. Patients can call or email their concierge doctors directly!
Because the concierge model utilizes — and has systems for — virtual visits, telehealth, email, and texting, these doctors (including me!) were already set up to respond quickly to this current COVID_19 pandemic. Concierge physicians did not have to react to this current crisis because their systems were already in place to care for their patients through alternative (i.e., virtual) means. Linnea Meyer, MD, writes in a Medical Economics article that, “Many [patients] have expressed how grateful they are to be members of a practice that already had everything in place for virtual visits. Many have said how reassured they have been to be able to reach me easily and get a quick response.” I am so grateful to now be a member of a group of amazing health professionals at Ms. Medicine who have shown leadership and foresight in providing care for their patients even before a pandemic demanded such changes.
Additionally, while many hospital-based physicians are reporting concerns over being forced to work without proper personal protective equipment, concierge doctors have the flexibility to adapt their practices to protect themselves and their patients. This flexibility, in addition to the systems in place for virtual care, allow concierge physicians to fully focus on the safety and health of their patients.
Finally, because patients of concierge doctors trust and rely on their doctors to a greater degree, concierge doctors are able to use social media as well as other communication platforms to educate people of guidelines and best practices for health in general, and health in the time of a pandemic in particular. These forms of open communication, accessibility to information and a health professional, and the trust that comes from that transparency and knowledge is what makes the concierge model a necessary shift in health care. I am proud to be a part of this model so that I can increase my ability to offer my patients the comfort and reassurance that they need and deserve.