A concierge doctor offers a high level of care to patients while bypassing traditional insurance payment options. Instead, concierge doctors accept an annual charge or retainer for treatment. This type of medical practice is called direct care, concierge medicine, retainer-based medicine, boutique medicine, or innovative medical practice design, and doctors employed in this field work under slightly different conditions from more traditional physicians.
In regard to treatment, a concierge doctor treats patients in the same way any other doctor would. The various medical options offered by a concierge physician do not differ from the options offered by a hospital or clinic that accepts insurance. For example, a cancer patient that sees a concierge doctor will receive chemotherapy just as a cancer patient who sees a conventional doctor would.
The difference lies primarily in two areas. The first is financial. Patients of a concierge doctor pay either a yearly fee or a retainer for services, thereby skirting the need for medical insurance and the hassles associated with insurance claims. Concierge medicine is often referred to as membership medicine, which illustrates the fact that patients are paying members of a doctor's medical practice.
The other major area of difference has to do with access. In general, concierge physicians are much more available to their patients. The yearly premium ensures that patients can get same- or next-day appointments to see their health care provider and can receive treatment in a timely manner. This kind of doctor will often make him- or herself available for after hours appointments and house calls as well.
Concierge doctors treat far fewer patients than their traditional counterparts, which allows for this enhanced level of care. It is estimated that conventional doctors see between 3,000 and 4,000 patients every year. This is markedly different from the practice of concierge health care, where providers typically see between 100 and 1,000 patients annually.
The financial cost of choosing a concierge doctor is extremely high. While patients are not subjected to insurance company co-pays, fees, and deductibles, they are paying outright for certain perks and benefits. A concierge physician charges a flat fee for the upcoming year, and, in exchange, the patient gets more access to and time with his or her doctor while avoiding the sometimes trying relationship with insurance providers.
This kind of doctor is a fully licensed medical provider. He or she has the same schooling and residency requirements of a conventional physician, and he or she treats patients with the same approaches to medicine. The disparities between concierge and conventional doctors are cost, access to treatment, and wait time for appointments.