Developed in 1996, mainly for affluent folks, "concierge medicine" that offers a higher level of personal attention is morphing into a more affordable health-care option for the masses, with lower yearly fees and more plan options. As a result, more patients are enjoying 24-hour access to doctors, longer office visits and even house calls.
"There's a wind in the sails of concierge doctor supply and demand," said Tom Blue, executive director of the American Academy of Private Physicians, a concierge care trade group. The business model is expanding, fueled by trends in health care. Primary care doctors are growing less satisfied as practices become overcrowded, he says, and patients are frustrated with the lack of face time.
There are now 4,400 concierge doctors in the U.S., and 1,000 practices were opened in the past year alone, says Blue, who adds that the number is expected to double for the next three years.
The growth is in response to rising demand, though not necessarily as a result of the health-care reform law signed by President Barack Obama. Concierge practices are not likely to see a big bump as more people become insured under the Affordable Care Act, said Wayne Lipton, founder of Concierge Choice Physicians in Rockville Centre, N.Y.
"Most concierge patients already have insurance," he explained. "Concierge medicine is extra icing on the cake."