Cardiologists Like Primary-Care Docs Consider Concierge

November 20, 2014

With revenues plummeting and overhead increasing, cardiologists are considering concierge medicine too, to help them stay afloat.

Suddenly cardiologists are finding themselves facing many of the same challenges that primary-care physicians have been facing for years. Declining reimbursements and increasing overhead are stretching even long-standing cardiology practices thin.

It's really no surprise that, in attempting to solve these problems, cardiologists are exploring the same approaches that primary-care physicians have explored - selling their practices to large hospital systems, retiring earlier than they planned, or developing a concierge-care program.

Concierge programs are membership-based and designed to support patients who require or desire a higher degree of service, coordination, and counseling. This kind of patient support has traditionally been seen as something that only a primary-care physician can offer, but in fact, these are services that many cardiologists already offer a significant portion of their patients on an ongoing basis.

As one of the cardiologists we work with says, "The heart is not an organ that exists in isolation." While cardiologists are not primary-care physicians, more often than not, the noninvasive cardiologist has a large percentage of his practice made up of patients who rely on him not just for heart-health, but for even more general medical concerns and advice.  For them, their cardiologist plays a critical role in their medical care.

Though they are not primary-care physicians - cardiologists now realize that they too can tap into these deeper patient relationships. Top benefits of a cardiology concierge program include:

1. Economic stability through a new, private revenue source;

2. The ability to maintain independence;

3. Compensation for the extra advocacy, advice, and time patients are seeking; and

4. Relationships with insurers and referral sources remain intact.

I advise cardiologists who are looking to adapt their practices in order to find success in today's marketplace to take a serious look at concierge care as a solution. Models like the hybrid approach, where an optional concierge-care program exists right alongside the traditional program, can be a very simple, low-risk solution. Plus, they won't disenfranchise patients who can't afford or don't want a concierge program, but who still need access to your cardiology services.

It is, however, important that before a cardiologist makes the move toward concierge care, that she conducts a very thorough practice analysis to determine exactly what percentage of her patient base would benefit from a membership program. For example, a cardiologist who has a patient panel with a large percentage of one-time consults and episodic care might not be a good candidate. Also, patient demographics can have a significant impact on the success of any concierge program. A solid drill down of patient data is critical to success, and should not be taken lightly.