It’s a great old saying, “time is money,” and it is, especially for physicians. But for some reason, physicians never see it that way. So many physicians, even some recognized as among the best in their communities, devalue their time, their commitment, and their knowledge.
Let me be blunt — don’t do it. Especially in today’s uncertain market where you may think there are few options and that you are getting swept away by the proverbial tides of change. Your time is a commodity much more valuable to your patients, hospitals, health plans and potential partners than real estate, a building, etc.
Your time is an asset to be used to help you build your practice, negotiate with partners, whatever your ultimate goal may be.
As I travel across the country talking to physicians, I try to reassure them that there is tremendous opportunity in the changes that are occurring in the rapidly changing world of healthcare. Physicians need to recognize that a large segment of healthcare consumers want to be cared for in a more one-on-one, service-oriented, personalized manner. In fact, as the number of physicians who deliver a more traditional, patient-centric form of care diminishes, demand for it grows.
If my hypothesis is correct, then the only issue is how to properly tap into that growing value to stem the tide of diminished direct reimbursement.
I find that many practices, particularly the top practices in middle- and upper-middle income areas, are not aware of their true value in today’s marketplace. They have already tried various approaches, like making their coding more efficient (which I’ve found is only a way for doctors to fight amongst themselves in a closed-cost system); adding technology for efficiency (it helps, but costs far more than people realize); and banding together to get better rates (a method that will not last much longer). So, where is the value and how do you realize it?
In the past it meant a few things: generating ancillary revenue, selling quasi-medical services and products, selectively dropping out of low-paying plans, or dropping all plans. Obviously, in larger groups and systems, these last two choices are not always possible. For those who do consider such options, it can have the negative effect of losing too many patients and diminishing the value of a practice or delivery system. Going “full concierge” means asking everyone to pay a fee, but this too has some risks — not enough members, the loss of plans, changing regulations or a changing economy. Ancillary services revenue is almost entirely exhausted as a strategy and selling “stuff” is not what most physicians really want to do.
So what is the best way to realize private patient revenue?
Physicians today who want to retain their ability to provide hands-on-care to patients are turning to other models such as direct pay and hybrid concierge. I’ll admit to a strong preference toward hybrid, but I think either model presents an interesting option provided the physician already has a strong relationship with their patient base. In other words, if they are the kind of physician where the patient will perceive their services as well worth the fee.
A hybrid concierge program allows physicians to tap into a private source of revenue while still keeping all the options open and maintaining all the insurance and third-party payer relationships. For small or large practices, it generates a higher rate of compensation for the time spent than any visit codes paid via third parties. It can also exceed the rate of compensation for a cash only physician (pro-rata).
It can work for older doctors looking for a way to ease into retirement; for larger groups seeking options to attract and retain the best and brightest MDs in their community; for younger doctors wanting a more hands-on approach to medicine; and for those established practices who want to remain independent, it provides a much needed private source of revenue.
Today, we are seeing the demand from patients for personalized old-fashioned care increasing and the availability of traditional patient-centric physicians diminishing. If people are willing to pay for bottled water, high-tech smartphones with high monthly fees, and pay lawyers $300 to $800 an hour or more for their services, I cannot see how there will not be a thriving, growing private sector of healthcare. Hybrid concierge is a way to tap into this value and not just throw up your hands and give up.
There is real value in your time, and in the practice of excellent, caring, patient-centric medicine — value you can tap into today to strengthen your practice while giving your patients a much desired option.
Are your patients worried about the changes coming to healthcare? Have they asked you about ways to maintain and build their relationship with you?