Direct Primary Care or Concierge Medicine

HIGHLAND PARK, Ill., June 11, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — As the prevalence of direct primary care (DPC) and concierge medicine continues to grow nationwide, the lines of definition between the two types of practices have become increasingly blurred. Although the terms are often used interchangeably, there is a significant difference in the healthcare experience, according to Roberta Greenspan, founder of Specialdocs Consultants, Inc.  Currently, there are about 300 DPC practices and 5,000 concierge practices in the US.*

“DPC is best viewed as a fee-for-service model, in which patients pay out of pocket at the time of service for care received; insurance is traditionally not part of the mix. The primary differentiators between the two are the concierge practice’s annual fee, which includes a defined bundle of amenities, and the practice’s reduced patient panel size. The concierge physician’s focus on prevention and wellness requires extended time and attention, as does the commitment to serving as each patient’s advocate 24/7,” says Greenspan.

Another distinction: the majority of medical services in a concierge model are delivered directly by the physician, while patients in a DPC practice are more likely to receive a significant portion of their care from a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, according to Greenspan.

Patient volumes vary widely. “In DPC, there is frequently no cap on the number of patients accepted, and to make the model work financially, patient panels easily number well over 1,500.  With those volumes, it’s not possible to offer the same level of services as concierge practices,” Greenspan says.

For the same reason, physicians adopting the DPC model will not be able to alter the treadmill nature of modern medicine.  “Given the large number of patients they continue to see, the DPC physician cannot offer the dramatic change in how they deliver care, nor will they experience the remarkable transformation in their professional and personal lives,” she says.

Age and overall health play a role in patients’ preferences, with younger patients leaning toward the DPC model, attracted to the simplicity of paying a set fee for care only when they need it, and eliminating the need to navigate the insurance reimbursement maze.  “They may not be interested in a personal connection with their healthcare provider, or may not yet realize the benefits of 24/7 access to their doctor or an extensive annual physical exam.  However, we are noting a downward trend in the average age of concierge patients, and we expect this will continue as more people experience the long-term value in this very personalized kind of care,” explains Greenspan.

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