While hospital-owned concierge practices don't necessarily offer the sort of luxury experience that may come with a high-end independent concierge practice, they do offer patients who can afford greater access to care—a commodity that is growing harder to come by as the primary-care physician shortage worsens and insurance deductibles rise.
For patients with busy schedules or chronic conditions , an annual retainer ranging from $2,500 to $6,000 at hospital-owned practices may offer the ability to schedule a same-day appointment, or text a doctor day or night if a health issue arises. The annual fee typically is charged on top of any office appointments, which are billed to the patient's insurance company.
For hospitals, offering concierge medical services is a way to attract and keep patients who would otherwise seek those services from the many independent concierge practices popping up across the nation. It also helps bring in extra revenue that the hospital can use to support services that benefit patients with lower incomes, some hospitals with concierge practices say.
"We are not doing this just to make more money—we are doing this to make money to put back into the mission of the hospital and to support programs that otherwise would be difficult to support," said Dr. Paul Huang, a concierge doctor at Massachusetts General Hospital, which launched its two-doctor concierge practice in August 2016 and now serves 200 patients. The practice has plans to grow to at least six doctors in the next couple of years.
The concierge medicine model surfaced in the mid-1990s, when some doctors, fed up with the pressure to see dozens of patients daily, charged high retainers to rich patients who wanted highly personalized care. Today, though, concierge medicine has spread to the middle-class for a much lower cost.
Patients pay an annual fee for nearly unlimited access to their physician as well as care coordination with specialists. Health insurers do not cover that fee. Concierge physicians are able to provide heightened access by limiting the number of patients they see to a few hundred. Traditional primary-care doctors typically see 2,500 patients annually. Oftentimes, an independent concierge doctor can make as much or more in income as a traditional doctor even while seeing fewer patients, experts say.