Most people agree that the current U.S. healthcare system could be improved. Costs are ballooning, regulatory pressure is increasing, and reimbursements from payers seem to be shrinking. Primary care physicians may have it the worst. Lower reimbursements are forcing many primary care practices to focus on quantity of care over quality of care. It’s little surprise then that primary care physicians are experimenting with a payment model that allows them to provide a higher quality of care to fewer patients: concierge medicine.
Concierge medicine is akin to membership in a private club. For a monthly or annual fee, supplemented by small co-pays, concierge doctors provide unlimited care to their patients. Most (but not all) concierge doctors accept no forms of insurance, instead relying on subscription fees to provide a steady source of income. As a result, concierge doctors aren’t concerned about Medicare/Medicaid reimbursement reductions, Meaningful Use incentives, or other health IT-related government mandates. They also don’t have to worry about medical billing problems like ‘upcoding’ or ‘revenue leakage.’ Because of this, it’s sometimes thought that concierge doctors have little need for health IT—but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The vast majority of concierge physicians appear to be health IT evangelists. This is because using health IT systems—such as patient portals, electronic health records, or practice management software—allows them to extend their abilities and capture additional revenue. Furthermore, as concierge medicine evolves and more groups emerge, being able to exchange patient health information between different providers’ systems will be key, just as with conventional medical payment models.
Software Tools for Concierge Practices
- EHR+PM: Concierge primary care physicians require many of the same systems as conventional providers.
A well-designed electronic health record platform and practice management system are essential to any modern medical practice. Concierge physicians still need to take notes, send lab orders, prescribe medication, and schedule appointments. And while a medical billing system is still important—some concierge doctors do take insurance after all—the ability to process payments for self-pay patients is absolutely critical.
- Patient Portal: While some conventional physicians question the use of a patient portal, most concierge doctors realize the value many patients place on digital services. Younger patients particularly expect to be able to schedule appointments, pay bills, and request prescription refills online. Patient portals can also reduce unnecessary visits. Secure patient-provider messaging allows new parents or heavy users of medical care to seek an electronic consultation without taking up space on the appointment schedule.
- Marketing & Customer Service: Though many physicians still consider direct marketing to be in poor taste, most concierge doctors realize that it’s a necessity. It’s typically far easier to retain a patient than to acquire a new one, so customer relationship management software is essential for concierge practices. This is particularly true for those who aren’t affiliated with a group or some other way of getting referrals.
- Telemedicine: One of the fastest growing health IT segments is telemedicine. Savvy concierge doctors can use telemedicine apps as both a marketing tool and as a potential additional revenue stream. Patients like telemedicine apps because they provide immediate, low-cost access to medical advice. Physicians like telemedicine apps because they help capture new patients and lost revenue from phone or patient portal-driven consultations.
Perhaps even more so than conventional physicians, the right technology is essential for concierge doctors.
Building a complementary, well-integrated software ecosystem can help recruit and retain patients so the practice can maintain the patient base needed to sustain this model.
Are you a concierge doctor? What software systems do you find essential to your practice? Let us know in the comments.