Concierge Physicians and the Good Doctor

May 11, 2017

By ensuring they have adequate face-to-face time with patients, concierge physicians are providing wholesome care.

A touching tribute from a journalist to the physician who saved her life as a teenager was recently printed in the Wall Street Journal. The article, titled "The Endangered Good Doctor," discussed the life of Dr. Burton Lee, a renowned oncologist who was famous for his clinical approach with patients. He treated the journalist when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease, and continued to treat her until he passed.

Dr. Lee approached his cases by getting to know the patient as a whole. He felt that a human connection was essential to curing disease. Dr. Lee's very personal style of medicine is described as "endangered." And yet, there are many physicians who still believe in the doctor/patient relationship and work hard to carve out the time for face-to-face patient interaction amid the current culture of depersonalized medicine, and ever increasing mandates.

We cannot underestimate the calling of medical service. Many doctors and nurses see themselves as life support to patients, who are often at their most vulnerable when they come to visit. Despite doctor shortages and increasing demands, doctors still want to practice medicine in the old-fashioned, highly personalized style. Patients still want that kind of treatment and support from their doctor, which is how concierge medicine came to be.

Concierge medicine gives doctors the time to reassure, hold hands, make a few extra phone calls, personally review lab tests, and answer patient and family questions. This kind of attention and care is not reimbursable by Medicare or any other insurance, but it is invaluable to families, particularly those who are suffering from a chronic condition or seeing multiple providers.

We survey thousands of patients annually to understand what they value as members in their physician's concierge program. The stories we have amassed from patients whose lives were saved by the personal approach of their physician are endless, below are some examples.

•After a simple blood pressure check, the doctor lingered with a patient a little bit longer to chat. Casually, the patient mentioned some bruises. The doctor instantly suspected leukemia, and put the patient on the path to treatment.

•A patient remarked that they never would have survived the devastating loss of their spouse if it wasn't for the support and concern of their physician.

•Patients who live alone report peace of mind knowing the doctor they know and trust is just a phone call away.

•The confidence patients have knowing their doctor understands their lifestyle and their health history, and is able to take all of those factors into consideration when answering questions and providing a treatment regimen.

There is no substitute for a physician who truly knows their patients. There is no greater satisfaction for a physician than to hear that patients are "beyond grateful" for the care and attention they provide, or an "angel sent from heaven to bless their life." 

The additional revenue that a physician earns in concierge medicine is what makes this kind of time and attention possible. But the physician's personal satisfaction exists outside of the money-it's an answer to a calling that is constantly being threatened in today's high-pressure healthcare marketplace.

While private practices are taken over by large groups, and patients are seeing whichever provider is available when they need an appointment, concierge medicine allows doctors to play the  supportive role that Dr. Lee played in the journalist's life-counseling her not just on health, but on life choices, with passion and conviction, like a trusted friend and confident. The "good doctor" is not endangered, it's been reinvented.