Concierge doctors offer their services to patients directly in exchange for an upfront fee, usually paid monthly. They’re also called direct primary care (DPC) or personalized medical service providers. Their services used to be common only among wealthy patients who could afford the fees, but in recent years, concierge medicine has become more affordable.
Costs for concierge medical service range widely, and services vary according to cost. Patients often pay a monthly retainer fee, and the annual costs can range from $1,500 for more basic care to $20,000 a year for more specialized services.
What Does a Concierge Doctor Do?
Concierge doctors offer personalized care and direct access. They’re often physicians who choose to form a private practice to limit the number of patients they’re responsible for — usually a smaller number compared to the volume of a more traditional office practice — and to minimize the amount of paperwork associated with insurance payouts.
Concierge doctors can do everything a primary care physician can, including administer lab tests and conduct annual physical exams. They also typically provide diagnostic screenings and minor urgent care services like stitches or treatment for minor skin conditions. However, they can’t provide many specialized treatments or major medical procedures, like surgery.
Education and Training
Concierge doctors get the same training and licensing to practice medicine as a doctor you’d see through an insurance network.
General practitioners like family medicine doctors generally spend around 11 years after high school in education toward their career, including:
- A four-year college degree
- Four years of medical school
- Three to eight years of graduate medical education in the form of a residency or internship
- Optional one-year fellowships after residency, which can offer opportunities to specialize or receive additional Certificates of Added Qualifications (CAQs)
After that, doctors are able to obtain their license to practice medicine.
Reasons to See a Concierge Doctor
If you can afford to pay the monthly fee, there are a few benefits to concierge medicine you may not be able to find with a primary care physician in your insurance network.
Shorter Wait Time
One of the most popular reasons to consider a concierge doctor is quicker access to your physician. Same-day appointments and direct email and phone contact with your concierge doctor mean speedier access to care. Because concierge doctors can cap the number of patients they take on, they’re often better able to control their availability.
Unlimited Primary Care Services
Services you’d normally get in a primary care visit, like physicals and preventive screenings, are already covered by the fee you pay for concierge service, so you won’t have to cover costs for each individual visit.
For those with conditions like heart disease that require frequent visits, a concierge doctor could be more cost-effective in the long run. However, major medical issues like surgery will still require insurance coverage.
A More Personal Relationship With Your Primary Care Doctor
Since a concierge doctor doesn’t see as many patients, they can spend more time with each person. That means they ultimately get to know you better. Your doctor also gains a better understanding of your medical history, which could make it easier for them to detect issues.
What to Expect at the Concierge Doctor
When you go to a concierge doctor, you’ll be getting the same services you might expect from a provider you’d see through a more conventional insurance plan. Those services may include:
- Blood tests
- Annual physicals
- Lab work
- Preventive screenings
One big difference between visiting a concierge doctor and a bigger office is that you can likely expect the wait to be shorter. Some concierge doctors provide consultations over the phone or through text messages or video calls and may not always require you to visit their office.
If you can afford the cost, it might make sense to add a low-cost concierge doctor plan to your existing health care coverage. This can be especially true if you have a chronic condition that requires frequent doctor visits, and your insurance has a high deductible.
However, though concierge doctors offer primary care services that are useful, direct primary care is not a substitute for medical insurance, particularly if you need to see a specialist or have a condition that requires treatment your concierge doctor cannot provide. Those additional services will have costs not covered by your concierge fees.
If you’re considering adding a concierge doctor to your team of health care providers, be on the lookout for companies that market concierge service as low-cost medical insurance. Always look at what the service actually covers, and run the numbers to be sure you can afford the monthly — or yearly — cost.