DIY Concierge Medicine Programs

December 11, 2014

If you're considering concierge medicine, do you become a DIY-er, or do you look to experts?

Many doctors and physician practices are exploring concierge medicine as a way of securing a new revenue source to make up for declining reimbursements and increasing overhead.

But how does a practice get started? There are two options. The first choice is to align with a concierge company that brings experience to the table in exchange for a fee. The second choice is a do-it-yourself (DIY) approach, where you won't have to pay out fees. Or will you?

To develop your own concierge program, you'll have to:

1. Assess the opportunity.

The first step is to analyze the demographics of your patient base, and determine their loyalty to your practice. This is necessary to develop proper program development and an implementation strategy. Do you know about data analysis? Has the lower-cost consultant you are considering developed and conducted patient surveys with response rates that provide real meaning?

2. Develop the program.

Developing pricing is new territory for many physicians, who largely deal with fixed reimbursements from insurance companies. But pricing is critical to economic and professional success - it can maximize member retention and new member acquisition. Also, there are legal issues you need to be familiar with. What can you really charge for, in a hybrid program? In a full-model program? Regulatory and marketing landmines can be avoided with experience. You may wish to consult with an attorney, but remember - concierge care is a niche market and even most attorneys have little or no experience.

3. Market the program.

Physicians are experts in marketing good health. Yet, still, national studies show that only 50 percent of patients comply with their physician's medical advice. Do you think you will have time to also market a concierge program? Maybe your staff can; but no matter how wonderful your office staff is, surveys tell us that generally, patients prefer to hear from their physicians. (On average, less than half of staff members receive excellent ratings by patients.) Perhaps you should hire an outside sales person to assist? Be prepared to train them.

4. Create value.

People pay for value. Remember that as important as it is to market your program initially, it's also important to keep patients in the program year after year. Patients will remain with a program if there is value. Do you really know what your patients value? Hint: it's not more testing or referrals. And most physicians believe that they already deliver value. How will you get patients to buy what you already think you give them?

As you can see, developing a DIY concierge program is a lot like DIY household repairs - you may be very handy with a saw and measuring tape, but when it comes time for plumbing and electrical work -you need to ask yourself if you aren't better off with a professional. By the time you pay an inexperienced consultant, lawyer, and sales help, you may have paid out more than you would have with a concierge care company, and you likely will have missed important opportunities.

Good concierge companies are paid on performance, and know how to implement and market a concierge program that brings value to patients. They know how to navigate regulatory and insurance issues before they become a problem for your practice.

Over the past 14 years, there have been many physicians who have asked me to help them re-launch their existing DIY hybrid- or full-concierge practices because the programs did not meet their expectations or solve their problems. Sometimes we can help, but in many cases there is no way to go back and start again.

There are some very successful concierge practices that have used the DIY approach. However, in general what we have seen is that only top physicians, who also understand marketing and who have time and a willingness to do a lot of work themselves, should consider it.