How membership medicine fits into a post-COVID medical practice

The current health crisis may slowly diminish in the coming months, but the need for convenient telemedicine and strong, stable medical practices that can put patients first will not.

Finally, 2020 has come to end, and though there appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel, there is still plenty of work to be done.

Primary care physicians and specialists, along with their staff, have been on the front lines of everything from shut downs, to managing COVID-19 patients, to ensuring that patients with chronic conditions aren’t neglecting their health. It hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been lucrative either. There are important takeaways from 2020 though, and physicians should consider them in 2021 to improve their medical practices and patient relationships.

Telemedicine

If a physician has a strong relationship with their patient, there is much that can be accomplished over the phone. The key is the development of a relationship based on trust. If the physician knows the patient, their typical health challenges and state of mind, many issues can be triaged virtually. 

This works in reverse as well. When a patient isn’t well and feeling vulnerable, they aren’t comfortable calling the 1-800 number on the back of their insurance card for an on-call nurse. They want the doctor who knows them, and who they trust.

Alternate Revenue Streams

When office visits and elective procedures virtually dried up, it became apparent that doctors needed a way to generate revenue outside of these reimbursements. An alternate revenue stream can be a lifeline for a practice, helping them withstand a crisis like COVID-19. It can also help buffer the ever-increasing financial pressure smaller practices are facing every day, even outside of shutdowns.

The Doctor/Patient Relationship

Never before has the value of a personal relationship with one’s physician been more important. Seniors, often living far away from their adult children, need the security of knowing they have someone looking out for them. The idea of waiting on line at an urgent care clinic during a worldwide pandemic was unthinkable for some. A comfortable office visit, where they are ushered into a private room quickly and safely can make the difference between being seen and neglecting their health.

There were some medical practices that had these systems in place and had the tools to survive what 2020 threw at them. Physicians that offered concierge medicine, either in full or in part, had the ability to treat patients conveniently on the phone, continue to earn stable revenue, and provide comfort and peace of mind to anxious patients. 

“I never expected to have my established concierge practice benefit me as much as it has in the last six months of this pandemic,” said Glenn Soppe, MD, a primary care physician in Encinitas, California. “We had three months of very low patient visits and related billings. We are pretty much back to normal volume now and have been able to have an almost normally functioning, virus-safe office since July 1st.”

Dr. Elizabeth Halibuk, with a practice in Fairfax, VA agrees. “I have never been happier to be a concierge physician than I am right now,”she said.

The current health crisis may slowly diminish in the coming months, but the need for convenient telemedicine and strong, stable medical practices that can put patients first will not end. The crisis has illuminated this need, and membership in concierge programs is growing and will continue to grow. The key in 2021 is finding the membership model that will complement your overall practice and support your patients.

About the Author

Keith Elgart is the COO of Concierge Choice Physicians, the largest private provider of the full range of concierge programs available today. The company provides innovative, flexible and affordable models proven to work in medical practices of any size-from solo physicians to large medical practice corporations-both independent and affiliated with hospitals or health systems. Learn more about Concierge Choice Physicians at www.choice.md.