Concierge Medicine Keeps Morale High

November 9, 2017

Keeping morale high is often difficult in medicine. Concierge medicine can help, according to this healthcare expert.

According to the Physician Advocacy Institute, the number of physician practices owned by hospitals and health systems rose 86 percent from 2012 to 2015. Hospital and health system employment of physicians also increased by over 50 percent during these years.

Obviously, these are big numbers. Privately owned and operated medical practices are becoming rarer, as physicians feel the squeeze of ever-increasing mandates and declining reimbursements. Because of this, signing on with a large delivery system that can help a practice get better rates with insurers and takes some of the management headache off of the practice is understandable.

In many cases, selling a medical practice to a hospital system and becoming an employed physician is the lifeline a practice needs. But other times, a physician who was accustomed to practicing independently regrets that choice and wants to go back to private practice.  But once a practice is sold, can a physician take it back?

Returning to private practice after selling is a complicated business. Every contract is different, but typically, if a physician is able to withdraw from their contract, they face several important challenges.

Reimbursements go down: One of the major advantages of a large delivery system affiliation is the bargaining power. A private physician will not have the same leverage and will likely see reimbursements from third party payers decrease.

Non-compete clauses: Many contracts mandate that a physician who leaves the delivery system network cannot open a practice within a certain geographic radius of the system. This can make it near impossible to retain loyal patients. Most people are only willing to travel so far to see their physician. 

Patients "owned" by the system: When a physician sells their practice, they are essentially selling their relationship with patients. Once ownership of those patient files are transferred, it may be difficult to get them back. Oftentimes, the physician has been compensated for those relationships-the exiting physician cannot attempt to retain them by announcing their new office or practice directly to their patients. They will have to start a new practice from the very beginning.

Successfully navigating around these issues is very difficult and in some cases, not worthwhile. Physicians are forced to remain a part of the larger group. But is there a way to make doctors who regret their new affiliation happy again? The new affiliation seemed so promising at the start…what is causing their unhappiness? Can it be resolved?

From our experience with hundreds of physicians from coast to coast, one of the reasons a doctor may regret their affiliation is because of the loss of control they once had. They remember what it was like to control their day and pace, taking more time with certain patients without the constant push for productivity. Physicians want to return to that.

Fortunately, opportunity exists for physicians to take back part of their day without quitting their affiliation, sacrificing productivity, or disrupting the business structure of the larger health system. A hybrid concierge program allows a physician to allocate only a portion of the day to a membership model of care, where patients pay an annual fee in exchange for more time with the doctor and other non-covered services. The time spent serving concierge patients earns higher revenue for the practice, making it a value addition for productivity measures. This also means the doctor can slow down a portion of their day. They can take more time with some patients and practice at a relaxed pace.

For the health system, the hybrid concierge program serves almost as a financial "bonus" for their physicians. It's a way to keep their physicians happier and motivated. The doctors continue to serve all of the patients and support the overall business model, and they also get to have something for themselves. 

Happy doctors work harder. Whether you yourself are an employed physician at a health system, or if you are a practice manager, you should consider ways to keep morale and motivation at peak levels.