How Direct Primary-Care Differs from Concierge Medicine

May 12, 2015

Trying to decide between direct primary-care practice and concierge medicine? Here are some of the key differences between the two models.

Direct primary care (DPC) and concierge medicine both fall under the general category of membership medicine, where patients pay monthly or annual fees directly to the practice in exchange for enhanced access to providers and/or coverage of primary-care services. However, the models have distinct philosophies and clienteles, according to the Direct Primary Care Journal, a trade publication that covers the DPC industry.

In general, DPC practices offer lower monthly rates and appeal to lower-income patients compared with concierge practices. According to the Journal, 82 percent of DPC practices charge less than $99 per month for unlimited access to some or all primary-care services.

Concierge practices may work with government or private insurers whereas DPC practices cut out insurance completely, saving on overhead expenses associated with billing and claims processing. However, DPC patients are encouraged to have separate high-deductible insurance plans to cover catastrophic events.

The DPC model is newer than concierge, but makes up a growing segment of the retainer medicine market, which is about 80 percent concierge practices and 20 percent DPC practices, according to the Journal. Currently, there are only an estimated 600 DPC physicians nationally, but the segment is growing at a rate of 5 percent to 10 percent annually.

And there is evidence that DPC is a viable business model, according to the Journal's 2015 Annual Report and Market Trends Analysis. The report notes that 90 percent of physician polling data indicates that DPC practices are doing better financially than one year ago, whereas only 10 percent are doing worse.