If you have traveled, stayed in hotels, etc., you may have noticed the dedicated space in many lobbies that is reserved for the “concierge.” A usually well-dressed employee of the hotel, the concierge caters to overnight guests by arranging services that enhance their stay, like obtaining tickets for area attractions and sightseeing tours, or making reservations for dinner and shows. The only goal of the hotel concierge is to address every basic need that a guest may require during their visit.

Switching gears, there is a relatively new health care model that is gaining in popularity called concierge medicine, also known as retainer medicine. The concierge physician, to keep the explanation simple, is very similar to the concierge serving hotel guests. Both are tasked with providing basic services, but one caters to visiting guests while the other serves patients with medical needs. 

In hotel environments it is customary to give a monetary tip to the concierge for services rendered. Likewise, a concierge doctor is paid directly for his services. But why would anyone want to pay a retainer to a medical professional in addition to the costly health insurance premiums already being paid? Access!

It’s simply about gaining access to professional service providers when you need them. The biggest draw to this type of medical care is gaining direct access to your primary physician via email or cell phone with no-wait appointments for medical services that could include house calls when viable. For a set fee paid annually, semi-annually, or monthly, concierge medical services provide patients with quicker access to doctors, resulting in short wait times, to resolve their medical issues.

Introduced in the 1990s, concierge medicine has only gained some popularity in the last 5-10 years as more and more people demand access to life-maintaining medical services while still navigating through busy lives. Seemingly more popular in urban areas and among affluent members of the middle class according to Concierge Medicine Today, a highly regarded trade publication and information dispensary, direct primary care patients who can afford the fees enjoy the benefits of immediate, enhanced, personalized medical care. DPC candidates may schedule same day appointments when needed and are guaranteed direct communication with their provider.

Fans of this focused, personalized health care system equate the extra cost to that of co-payments that are collected per visit by most insurance-driven medical practices. Like everything else, the cost of DPC depends on several factors; type of practice, services offered, location, etc. 

Concierge doctors perform the same services as a primary care doctor. They treat minor illnesses, conduct annual physicals/checkups, and order preventive screenings and lab work. However, surgical procedures and specific medical conditions requiring specialists would be referred within the network of physicians and revert to standard health insurance coverage. Direct primary care is not a substitute for existing health insurance but rather, another layer of coverage. 

For patients with serious, chronic health conditions that require frequent visits with their primary caretaker, contracting the services of a concierge doctor may be more cost effective. Under normal health plans, co-payments are collected prior to each visit to the doctor and some plans have rather high deductibles that must be met first. Concierge medicine has a set, annual fee ranging from $1200-$3000 for basic services. Plans with highly enhanced services may cost tens of thousands of dollars in retainer fees, again, depending on the medical services offered.

Concierge medicine offers coveted benefits to the doctors who participate in the DPC practice as well. There are approximately 10,000 doctors in the United States currently offering direct care to their patients. Concierge doctors are reported to be less burdened by patient paperwork and regulatory compliance matters, thus allowing them more time to spend with patients. Doctors can forge more personal relationships with their patients and become more familiar with their family and medical histories. These doctors and patients are more prone to one-on-one, in-depth relationships without interference from staff members. Patients can schedule appointments directly with their physician at will.

How does one find a Concierge doctor? You can ask Alexa, Siri, Cortana or just Google “concierge doctors in my area.” You’ll find listings for these specialized practices in and around Annapolis and northern Anne Arundel County. And for more information about Concierge medicine, visit www.conciergemedicinetoday.org

Sharon is a writer/photographer and a proud “Bay” Boomer from Anne Arundel County and can be contacted at spcs924@hotmail.com

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Sharon Schultz

Sharon is a writer/photographer and a proud “Bay” Boomer from Anne Arundel County and can be contacted at spcs924@hotmail.com