As many as 12,000 physicians in the United States now operate concierge practices, according to recent research conducted by Concierge Medicine Today, a national trade publication. The estimate is based on interviews with physicians, consultants, and investors since there is no definitive national database of concierge activity, says Michael Tetreault, the publication's editor.
Generally, a concierge practice is one that charges patients an annual fee or retainer in exchange for enhanced services that aren't typically covered under traditional insurance plans. Beyond that, concierge practices can vary widely in their structure, payment requirements, and menu of services.
Practice sizes range from 100 to 1,000 patients per physician compared with 3,000 or more at a traditional practice, according to Tetreault. Most concierge practices bill patients' insurance for routine services and charge an additional fee in the range of $1,500 to $1,800 per year for 24/7 access to providers, longer appointments, and extra services, such as house calls.
The 2014 Survey of America's Physicians, conducted by healthcare search firm Merritt Hawkins, suggests that a significant percentage of physicians are interested in pursuing the concierge model. Findings from the survey include:
• Seven percent of physicians said they are already practicing concierge/direct pay medicine while more than 13 percent said they plan to transition at some point in their careers.
• Younger physicians are more likely to consider concierge. Of those age 45 or younger, 17 percent said they plan to transition in whole or in part, compared with 11 percent among those age 46 or older.
• Physicians who convert to concierge from traditional practice typically retain about 25 percent of their existing patients.