Cardiology practices can avoid the headaches of today's healthcare system through the viable alternative of concierge care.
If there are any certainties in the shifting sands of today's healthcare, it's the fact that time is more precious than ever for physicians. Nowhere is this more apparent than the practice of cardiology.
Once a highly compensated medical specialty, cardiology is now facing the same wave of cuts to reimbursements for visits, procedures, and consults that primary- care physicians have faced. The resulting strain on cardiologists' practices is expected to only get worse as they experience the impact of bundled payments by Medicare and private insurers. Many cardiologists are handling this like their colleagues in primary care have -increasing the volume of patients they see and expanding their use of mid-level providers. Unfortunately, high patient volume means shorter appointments and more separation between physicians and patients - something that neither party wants.
What can't be overlooked is the important role of healthcare advisor that cardiologists play in the lives of their patients. For patients with heart conditions, this kind of lifestyle coaching is as important as the medical treatment their cardiologist provides. It addresses the physical and emotional needs of patients, helps them to ward off future episodes, and inspires the close relationships that encourage compliance. This often results in better long-term health.
In fact, for many patients, the cardiologist becomes their most important, trusted physician. These patients want to have more time together. The dilemma for the cardiologist is how to dedicate the time, availability, and connectivity that patients want, while keeping up with the volume that is necessary to sustain their practice.
Viable alternatives to easing this pressure do exist. One of the most effective, in my view, is hybrid concierge medicine. As a healthcare veteran of many years, I have rarely seen a practice need - easing time pressures and stabilizing the economics of practice - met so ideally than with hybrid concierge medicine. Once considered an option for primary-care physicians and their patients, concierge medicine has grown dramatically within multiple sectors of medicine, especially cardiology.
The hybrid concierge model is a win-win situation where both doctor and patient benefit. From the doctor's perspective, a hybrid model offers a predictable revenue stream along with a critical professional component: the high degree of satisfaction that comes from being able, in the words of one of our cardiology clients, "to practice medicine the way I intended to."
Translated this could mean significant enhancements to the practice and its patients. It offers patients more physician face time than the standard visit, and allows the physician to spend more time providing guidance on nutrition and lifestyle choices. These are areas that can make a genuine difference in the quality of patients' lives. Moreover, patients, especially those most in highly vulnerable stages, often feel more strongly connected to the cardiologist who shares more of his or her professional time, combined with the convenience factor of more immediate appointments.
In cardiology practices, the hybrid model allocates a small portion of the day to concierge members and the majority of practice time for traditional patients and new consults. It is not a substitute for primary care, but a way to give some patients more personal services. For those patients who prefer to have more time and help with their health issues directly from their cardiologist, concierge medicine may be the perfect solution.