Concierge medicine used to be something reserved for celebrities and the ultra rich, and it didn’t seem accessible to us mere mortals. The concept is great — having a doctor who you know and trust and who is always available when you need him/her.
I’ve loved the idea of it for years, and was so excited when I finally found an affordable and personalized option that made this available to everyone. In fact, when combined with healthcare sharing, our family has found that we save money and receive drastically better care than more traditional models.
What Is Concierge Medicine?
In short, concierge medicine is an arrangement between a patient and a doctor where a patient pays a set amount each month (retainer). This usually entitles the patient to better access to the doctor and better care. This arrangement can also be called direct care, boutique medicine, or membership medicine.
The idea has become more popular recently through shows like Royal Pains, and through growing publicity about such arrangements with celebrities and their doctors. Essentially, this type of arrangement can apply to any type of doctor/patient relationship where the patient pays a regular retainer, though sometimes other fees are involved too. These arrangements can be local with primary care doctors, or increasingly, online to allow access to specialists and more personalized care.
Personally, our family uses a customized platform called SteadyMD that allows us to have direct access to our primary care doctor who shares our values and understands our medical needs. Here’s how we use it and why we love it…
Benefits of Concierge Medicine
This new model seems to be growing in response to the ever-expanding problems in healthcare that affect the patient and the doctor. Unconventional arrangements like these can often create a better system for both the doctor and the patient. Here are some of the benefits of concierge medicine:
Having experienced concierge medicine first hand, I can vouch for the benefits to the patients!
Here’s the thing… When I set out to find my own health answers, I eventually found just that. My own health answers. The more I learn, the more I realize that there truly is no one-size-fits-all. Not even close! Short of some things that seem universally true, like the dangers of heavy metals and plastic exposure, there really is no perfect diet or lifestyle that applies to everyone, as we’re all so different.
Yet chronic disease is on the rise and we all need more specific and personalized answers. This is where personalized medicine like concierge really shines. By reducing the patient load and establishing a more intimate relationship between doctor and patient, it allows the doctor to dive deeper and look for root causes and establish lifestyle interventions for the patient.
Also, instead of an urgent care physician or teledoc who sees dozens of patients a day, a direct care relationship like this allows the doctor to be familiar with the patient’s health history and is able to address problems more quickly and thoroughly.
More Time and Less Stress for the Doctors
Just like patients, many doctors are suffering and stressed due to the current medical model of patient overload, and the situation seems to be getting worse. Just a few decades ago 70% of doctors practiced primary care. That number is now 30% and shrinking as many doctors opt to specialize right out of medical school.
On top of that, most doctors are having to see more and more patients to meet basic rent and to cover the rising cost of insurance.
I’ve always had a lot of respect for doctors and really believe that they often come from a desire to help others. It would be tough to make it through that many years of school if they didn’t! I have also talked to many doctors who are frustrated by the limitations of the regular medical model and more and more are turning to concierge medicine instead.
As an example, I now have a primary care doctor through Steady MD, an online/app concierge medicine system that connects patients with doctors who share their values and can address their specific needs. My doc has less than one third of the patients most doctors have, which allows him to know my medical history and have time to dive deep when I have an issue.
He is available via their mobile app, e-mail, text, or phone when I need him and since his hours are more flexible and his patient load is lighter, he is quick to respond and always super helpful. He loves what he does and I love that I can always reach him when I need to!
More Affordable Care
Years ago, we were paying over $1,000 a month for a high deductible plan that was almost useless when we needed it. I couldn’t access the doctors and specialists I needed because they were out of network and the out-of-pocket expense was so high. I felt helpless and stuck.
Now, our family uses a combination of healthcare sharing and concierge medicine through SteadyMD. We save so much money while getting the best care we’ve ever received.
Here’s what I mean:
The total we pay for both of these is hundreds of dollars less than what we paid for traditional insurance. Usually there are no other out of pocket expenses. Our inexpensive monthly retainer for SteadyMD lets us access our doc anytime we need to with no co-pay or extra charge. Whenever there is a medical issue or need, our doctor helps us navigate it, and healthcare sharing reimburses the cost.
I’ve saved countless dollars by being able to text or video chat my doc a picture of one of my kids to see if they needed stitches or medication and not had to go to urgent care or the ER. When I’ve been traveling in other states or countries and needed something, my doc was able to help.
How to Find Direct Care Concierge Medicine
This was the tricky part for me initially. I was familiar with the model for a long time before I found a way to make it affordable and efficient.
A growing number of doctors are offering this model on a local level, though I could never find these options where we lived and these doctors don’t seem to always understand issues like MTHFR, genetic problems, and autoimmune disease.
I turned to a digital platform that solved both of these issues! The digital aspect allows the doctors to be licensed and work with people in multiple states and without the need for physical office buildings, and costs are lower. Additionally, I could select a doctor who understood my condition (in fact, he has Hashimoto’s too!) and who shares my values. He isn’t quick to recommend antibiotics if they aren’t needed, and he understands nutrition.
With any concierge or direct care model, it is important to ask questions first. Make sure that the doctor you work with understands your needs and any specific conditions or concerns you have. Ask how the model works, what the fees and costs are, and what specifically you receive in return.
Read the Fine Print
Just as with any big decision in life, make sure to read the fine print carefully. Make sure to understand all costs associated and read carefully to see if there are extra fees for visits or any other hidden charges.
What I Chose and Why
As I said, this was something I thought was out of reach for a long time. Then, a friend introduced me to the idea of digital concierge medicine and I was intrigued. This model basically combines the best of technology and the best of personalized care.
The digital aspect makes it affordable…$169/month for a family plan two parents and all kids. This also allows the doctors to take fewer patients so they have more time and attention for each patient.
Essentially, it feels like the modern equivalent of a country medicine doctor who comes to your house when you have a medical need. Except it makes the best use of technology so we get instant access instead via text, email or even video chat.
This model has been a great option for our family, and I’m so glad that SteadyMD is helping make this type of personalized and customized medicine available to everyone. I also know I had a lot of questions before I considered signing up. I wanted to know what the process looked like and how it worked. I’m sharing my experience here in case you have similar questions.
How SteadyMD Works
- They partner you with a doctor who understands your medical conditions, needs and concerns. I was partnered with a doctor who also has Hashimotos.
- During your first (video chat or phone) appointment, your doc goes deep on your personal and family medical history. He or she listens to your questions, asks about nutrition and lifestyle and can even retrieve medical records from other doctors and hospitals if needed. I talked to my doctor for an hour and he was very familiar with genetics, autoimmune disease and answered all the questions I had.
- Then, you have access to your doc anytime. You can text, call or video chat anytime from any device. I usually use my phone and just text or chat within the app. This has been especially helpful when kids got minor illnesses or injuries and I wanted advice on if they needed more care.
- When you need it, the doctor is there to help. They can prescribe medications, order labs, and even work with other specialists when needed (at no extra cost). Also, since these physicians have more bandwidth and are less stressed, they have time to talk about lifestyle and preventative care too.
- The app can even integrate with health and fitness apps (if you choose to do that) and let your doc have access to your diet and exercise data and full health history.
TIP: I’ve found that having a digital otoscope is really helpful if you’re including your kids in the membership. this lets you send high res images of the ear drum to a doc if needed so they can evaluate remotely.
I’m so glad I made the switch to this type of medical care, especially when I combined it with Samaritan Ministries. This model may not be for everyone, but it is perfect for those of us with specific conditions, questions, or lifestyle preferences, and for those of us who like to be actively involved in our own health care decisions.
Local options are available in some places, but the digital platform through SteadyMD has been the best of both worlds for me. In a world where we can order our groceries and anything we need through an app, and pay bills online anytime, I love that I now can access my doctor in the same way and not have to drive anywhere or sit and wait for hours in a doctors office to then only get 5 minutes of actual face time with him.
I was so excited about making concierge medicine available to everyone, that I even decided to personally invest in the company and work with them to make their system even better for moms and families (you can check out my podcast episode all about that here). I’ve been so impressed with their doctors, that I asked their Chief Medical Advisor, Dr. Scott Sorries, to head up the new medical review team here at Wellness Mama. He’s helping make sure all of the posts you read here are accurate and informative.
If you’ve been looking for a truly personalized and attentive care option, I highly recommend Steady MD!
Ever heard of this type of medicine? Ever used it? Share below!
Discussion (7 Comments)
I found Siskiyou Vital Medicine, a great Naturopathic MD right here in Medford Oregon! It’s the best medical care I have gotten in my entire life. I have access to two MDs, a nutritionalist and heart math specialist, and other alternative practitioners that are invited into the practice regularly. There are also regular information and training sessions about nutrition, the microbiome, stress reduction and much more. I am so glad to have access to this kind of medical care here!
My company creates programs like these for pediatric and OB offices. Both patients and doctors reap the benefits to a more fluid relationship.
I’ve tried this but was disappointed in what I consider lack of ethics when the provider changed the policies in the middle of my membership term, to his advantage and not mine. I wasn’t allowed to make any changes but that apparently didn’t apply to him. I don’t think that is ethical or moral, but rather bowing at the feet of the almighty dollar, and no different than many other providers.
I have been with my Dr at Personalized Medical Care since February 2017. Before that, she was also my MD at a health care group here in Avon CT. I saw the difference it made when she opened her private practice! Then, when my husband also joined later in the year, we experienced everything you are talking about here in your article! She has been there for us 24/7 on telephone, email, texting, etc.. We have never experienced this kind of care ever! Our monthly payment is ridiculously low and we happily pay this, because we simply are benefitting and saving in a big way! However, we are still on our Insurance plan also and some of the services she renders qualifies for cover as needed. Great article! Thank you!
Hi Christel, I am in CT also and wondering if you would recommend your dr for specific conditions like hashi’s or for general family medical care (still 3 kids at home) or both. Thanks for any advice!
Yes, I just enrolled with PartnersMD here in Maryland. I was taken aback when I first found the doctor…a bit reluctant about having to pay in addition to my medical insurance deducted by my employer. I actually decided against the idea after this and went back to a regular/traditional primary care practice, and for 8 weeks I played hit or miss trying to get an appointment because I was always leaving messages for a return appointment call. After being frustrated, I called PartnerMD back, filled out the paperwork, and when I called for my appointment, I was given one right away (next week)
The initial appointment was an hour (may have been 90 minutes) because they do a consultation with you, go over all of your medical issues, concerns and goals. In than made an appointment to come back the next week for my physical and bloodwork…which they have their own lab on site.
The staff is very personable and friendly…from the receptionist to the doctors. My daughter feels very comfortable going by herself (just turned 18, so no more pediatrician…or mom, although I did go on her consultation…but i let her speak to the doctor in private).
I absolutely love PartnerMD and would truly recommend concierge medicine to everyone (if it’s affordable for you…although it’s an extra expense, I chose to cut other concessions out to comfortably pay for the membership fee …got rid of extra cable channels…) to me, it is well worth it, especially since the steam able to focus on my extensive medical issues without rushing me along.
Thanks Ju C.
1. With Samaritan ministries (we have that too!) does it cover the $169 a month you are paying for this program or no since it’s not a “need”?
2. Also, with each text you send and receive then you get a bill so you can turn in as a need? Or the $169 IS the cost for that unlimited care. And if that’s so thenwhenyou do send something small in like a text for a child can that month’s $169 then be turned into samaritan for that particular child, this it is getting covered by Samaritan usually each month by being someone’s need?
3. Do any doctors do homeopathy too? I work on the phone with a homeopath formost of our needs now and I’d love it to be an actual natural or holistic doctor as well. Could you help me find a good fit if I emailed you and talked to you about it? I trust your opinions of doctors.