Key Advice for Physicians Considering Concierge Medicine

November 7, 2013

Physicians can make mistakes when adopting new practice models on their own. Experts can help and should be considered.

I recently spoke with a physician who attended a conference on medical practice models designed to attract physicians interested in concierge care. He told me something interesting: Half of the doctors who attended were there to learn how to successfully start a concierge program, and the other half had already launched their own program without much success and were looking for ways to go back and fix their problems.

What can we learn from this? There are many physicians and group practices that have yet to fully recognize the opportunity that exists for them in concierge care. There are also many physicians who are not currently positioned well enough to succeed in a concierge program.

And, lastly, those physicians who think that they or some members of their group are potential candidates for concierge care may make some serious mistakes when developing and marketing their program.

As the attendees at the recent conference demonstrate, many doctors, administrators, staff, and even consultants lack the necessary experience to successfully convert a practice to a concierge program.

Finding out if your practice is right for concierge care, and going through the process of developing and marketing the right model of concierge care is an involved process fraught with landmines.

The first step is for a physician or a group to develop reasonable goals when adding concierge care to their practice. These goals can include: 

1. Increasing income in a meaningful way (at least 20 percent) to make up for the business changes that have occurred recently.

2. Reducing the stress and strain on the providers and the practices.

3. Aligning the concierge care with the strategies, standards and professionalism that already exist in a practice or group.

4. Negating or eliminating entirely the risks associated with model changes.

5. Leaving as many options on the table as possible.

6. Creating practice value that may be realizable for a physician considering sale of his practice or his retirement.

7. Sustaining the model over a long period of time.

If models currently exist that accomplish these goals, why can’t physicians just copy them?

Experience is really the factor that contributes most to a physician’s success or failure in concierge program development.  As the attendees at the recent conference demonstrate, there are very few people with the necessary experience converting practices to a concierge program.

The value an objective and experienced third party brings to a practice comes from more than just giving concierge care a rubber stamp. Anyone can spout the benefits of models that potentially accomplish the physician’s goals, but the key to success lies in the process.

For example, a common landmine practices encounter is effective patient conversion. Most consultants think that they can train the physicians’ staff to sell the concierge program to their patients exclusively and not put trained representatives into the practice to advocate for the program. Yet, this is a necessity.  As half the doctors at that conference can tell you, selling concierge programs is not easy. And in a hybrid program, it is particularly difficult. While staff training is crucial, it cannot get the job done alone.

My advice to any physician or group is interested in converting to or adding in a concierge program is:

1. Collaborate with experienced people who know how to do it right, not just people who tell you what the model is.

2. Choose a company with real experienceand a provable track record of success.

3. Decide whether the contractual relationship and costs associated with the services achieves your goals.

4. Make sure that you are not entering a relationship that binds you  forever. This should not be a sale of all or part of their practice. This is about acquiring the right expertise and services necessary for success in a concierge program.