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The ongoing reimbursement challenges of medical practice today are leading cardiologists to explore concierge medicine.
There are many reasons patients join a concierge program: they are looking for a strong relationship with their doctor, greater connectivity to that doctor, convenience, advocacy, support, and an unhurried environment. But the single largest reason is the management of the patient's medical issues, or the issues the patient is concerned about having.
While some young and healthy people join for the convenience concierge care affords, most concierge patients are older and are managing a chronic condition. Because of this, it's no surprise that cardiologists are now among the most successful physicians delivering concierge programs.
Why are cardiologists so successful at concierge care?
1. Cardiologists work with a patient population that has health challenges that are not necessarily episodic. Cardiology patients have varying degrees of need, and many are addressing issues that require more frequent care, compared to other specialties where patient visits are often consultative or procedural in nature.
2. Cardiologists are often regarded as their patients' most respected and trusted physicians. Our patient surveys indicate a higher level of confidence in cardiologists than in primary-care physicians. This is not to say that primary-care physicians are not trusted or respected, rather, the severity of the condition that drew the patient to the cardiologist may generate a deeper level of trust and attachment.
3. Some cardiologists may act in part as a more general physician for their patients. Because patients with a chronic condition may gravitate to their cardiologist more than their primary-care physician, they end up turning to them for help with other health conditions. Also, so many other health concerns can relate to the core cardio issue, it makes sense that the cardiologist may play a more expanded role.
4. Non-invasive cardiology practices have been heavily impacted by the changes in reimbursement rates and programs recently. The need to be more productive by increasing the number of patients seen has led to larger practices which are inherently more successful in concierge programs.
There are different types of concierge care that cardiologists can explore that will help meet their practice needs and the needs of their patients.
An important aspect of cardiology practices is the flow of new patients into the practice. For those cardiologists who often depend on referrals from primary-care physicians for new patients, a hybrid program can be very effective. When a hybrid program is properly developed and marketed, it is not a threat to primary-care physicians.
Hybrid programs are also well suited to cardiology practices because physicians can continue to see new patients, allowing for a greater diversity of patients and a readily available source of new concierge members.
Depending on the nature of their patient panel, cardiologists can also have successful full-model concierge programs. If you're a cardiologist considering this kind of practice change, it is critical that you link up with an expert in the industry before you make any changes or announcements. We have successfully developed full-model concierge programs for specialists, but getting the proper research and analytics in place is very important.
The healthcare landscape is changing, and concierge care is growing across the board. More cardiologists are exploring options, looking at concierge care as a way to buffer the tremendous pressure on their practice revenue. Offering choices to their patients may be a great solution to the challenge.