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Welcome to our PhysicianTrends Blog.  We're here to talk about physicians and how they are changing in the midst of the most massive transformation in our healthcare system since Medicare.
Tuesday, 27 December 2011
DG Comfort

Setting-Up Your Concierge Medical Practice

Written by  DG Comfort

Being able to charge patients $600 to $5,000 per year for more personalized medical care and limiting the number of total patients for which you are responsible, sounds like a very good deal for any doctor. But taking the proper steps required to make the transition from a traditional medical practice to a concierge medical (CM) practice may be daunting.

The first concern that you need to resolve is why you are considering switching to a concierge practice in the first place.  If you are contemplating the switch to a CM practice so that you can make more money with less effort or so that you can avoid insurance hassles then your practice most likely will struggle to prosper.  As with any endeavor, your motivation should be to pursue your passion; in this case it may be to spend more time with patients or to return to better doctor-patient relationships.  It will take time and effort to transition to a CM practice, so you may be disappointed if money is your primary motivation.

There are a couple of legal issues that you need to consider.  Doctors must be careful when terminating relationships with existing patients, especially those with "a continuing, intensive course of treatment.”  Communicating with these patients before you make the switch to a CM practice, outlining their options or making allowances should protect you from legal complications.  If you plan on continuing to accept third-party payments for medical services rendered, exactly what the concierge fee will and will not cover needs to detailed beforehand.

Once you make the decision to change to a CM practice you need to decide if you want to go it alone or go the franchise route.  Franchises generally charge a royalty fee of around $500 per patient per year for which you should receive outside help to handle legal, practice management, and marketing issues. Start-up costs, which could easily exceed $100,000, may be included in the franchise agreement.  Setting up your own private CM practice may require more effort, more time, and more capital but the rewards include greater income potential and a more personalized practice.

Finally, take the steps necessary to make the transition to a CM practice.

1. Survey your current patients.  Find out if they are interested in enhanced services, what they are willing to pay an additional retainer fee for, and what they don’t feel is important.

2. Develop a "menu" and fees. Clearly define exactly what services are included for the annual fee.  You may need to amend your fees as you develop your CM practice.

3 Create marketing materials. In reaching out to new and current patients, experts say, the trick is to promote a new corporate image—one consistent with the enhanced level of services you're offering.

4. Explain the practice to insurers. As a rule, health plans don't prohibit participating physicians from opening retainer-style practices. Make sure the concierge fee is for the "extras," like monitoring specialist care if a patient lands in the hospital, and not for covered medical treatment.

5. Send a letter to patients. Explaining your move to current patients may be the single hardest step in your transition to a retainer-style practice. That's why a well-crafted introductory letter is critical—especially if you hope to recruit established patients to your new practice.

6. Schedule follow-up meetings. Following the introductory letter, some practices hold one-on-one meetings with patients; others host meet-the-doctor nights.

The rewards for committing to a CM practice can be very satisfying, both personally and financially.  Make sure that you explore all options available to you before you take the plunge. You should also be aware of the AMA guidelines for CM practices, which are included below.

The AMA has issued ethical standards to guide doctors interested in starting a retainer-style practice. Among those standards are:

• Both parties must agree to—and be clear about—the terms of the relationship. Patients who wish to opt out should be able to do so without undue hassles or financial penalties.

• Retainer-style practices shouldn't be marketed as providing better diagnostic and therapeutic services.

• Doctors must help transfer—at no charge—non-participating patients to other physicians. If none are available, a doctor "may be ethically obligated to continue caring for such patients."

• Doctors must be honest in billing third-party payers.

• Starting a retainer-style practice doesn't exempt physicians from caring for those in need, especially those in need of urgent care.

 

 

 

Last modified on Tuesday, 27 December 2011

DG Comfort

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