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Concierge Practice Success Requires Defining What Patients Value


Do you know what patients value? If considering a concierge medicine program, that will be a critical question to answer.

People make purchasing decisions based on the value of what they are buying.  Value is both real and perceived.  This is particularly true for patients when it comes to concierge programs.  When a patient joins a concierge program, they are doing so because they value the care and service they receive. 

When physicians decide to offer a concierge program, they are often doing so to receive fair reimbursement for the quality of healthcare services they provide.  However, such an approach is not realistic when it comes to the value proposition.  Patients will not pay to right the “wrongs” of lower compensation and more working hours.  Let’s face it, patients work hard too and many are seeing their own compensation stagnate or fall.  In order to get patients to pay out of pocket for a concierge program, they need to receive value for their direct dollar.

Almost every physician that my company has worked with over the past eight years has said with pride, before starting their new concierge program, that they already deliver a “concierge level of care.”  However, you can’t suddenly call yourself a concierge practice and put a price tag on that level of care. To successfully attract patients, you need to go above and beyond to provide value.

But measuring what patients value can be difficult. Most physicians think that what patients want is more treatment, more medicine; but, this really isn’t true.  Patients generally like what they get medically. True, there are some frustrations by patients and physicians alike about what is covered by payers, but additional medical services can always be purchased.  To be successful, concierge programs have to offer what is valued by patients - not just one time, but on an ongoing basis.

Consider these two case studies:

1. A physician wants to grow a concierge practice by creating the most complete, expanded physical examination possible. He believes that if he offers this executive-type physical, patients will be interested and join his program.   The reality is, only a small portion of the public values expanded physicals.  Most concierge programs are built on transitioning patients from within practices, not attracting new patients from outside the practice.   Generally, there is too small a portion of existing patients who desire expanded physicals to make the program a success, and the cost of marketing to attract people from outside the practice with the promise of an executive physical is very high and challenging. Simply offering an expanded physical is not consistent with what most people value.

2. A group of cardiologists wants to develop a concierge program by selling more of what they already deliver.  They want to create tiers of membership centered on additional, more comprehensive testing.   This approach to a membership program dismisses the basic value that patients are willing to pay for. These tests are generally covered by insurance, and therefore could be acquired already.  Where is the value for the consumer?  This approach will not be very successful.

While physicians know their patients better than any marketing company, they often have a subjective opinion of what patients want. That is why it is critically important that an objective third party conducts a confidential survey to measure patient perceptions regarding time with their physician and the practice.  Doctors are often surprised at the responses. 

The truth is, patients perceive value - and are willing to pay for - convenience, connectivity and time.  They also want compassion, caring, emotional support, help with decision making, and advocacy and advice.  These are the things doctors have to offer to build a strong and sustainable program.

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