Concierge medicine a growing reality

By Layron Livingston - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - Walk into just about any hotel on any day at any time and the concierge is always ready to help. Wouldn't it be great if that were the case with your doctor?

"It's a throwback to the medicine of old," said Dr. Barbara Allen, Chief of Primary Care with Trinity Clinics. "What concierge medicine is describing is a different level of service."

Dr. Allen says interest here in East Texas is rising.

"Wonderful service, increased access to primary care...the ability to provide services that not all insurances are covering anymore," said Allen.

Like yearly physicals, patients normally enter into a contract guaranteeing 24/7 access to their doctors. There are about 5,000 concierge doctors or practices, nationwide, but it isn't free. Fees range anywhere from $600-$1,900 per year for the service.

"Instead of the typical 2,000 of 2,500 patients in a typical primary care physicians practice...they will say, 'I will accept 500 or 600 patients,'"explained Allen.

Dr. Allen says limiting patients actually keeps people from getting much needed primary care.

"A few people may be happy with it, but it's certainly not going to transform health care," said Dr. Gary Gross, an oncologist with the Blood and Cancer Center of East Texas.

Dr. Gross calls it...elitist.

"What it's saying is, 'I can't get decent, prompt care as a normal person...I have to be treated specially to get basic good care.'" said Gross. "I don't agree with that."

Congress is working to make health care available to millions more Americans. Dr. Gross says more people in the system means all hands will have to be on deck.

"Every doctor should get up everyday and say, 'I'm going to be the concierge doctor for my patients,'" said Gross.

In a recent poll by the Physicians' Foundation, 49 percent of doctors are planning see fewer patients, or quit practicing all together within the next three years. Seven percent say they plan on switching to concierge care.

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