Cardiology is a medical specialty that was once highly compensated for. However, this field now faces reimbursement cuts for consults, procedures, and visits that physicians in other fields face. In this scenario cardiologists have had to increase the number of patients they see while reducing the duration of appointments. This has also resulted in less frequent visitation to the doctor.
For heart patients, this arrangement does not work too well as their cardiologist is also their life coach. These specialists not only address the medical needs of their patients but also look after their emotional wellbeing. Both doctor and patient work in a relationship where the expert dedicates time, connectivity and availability to their clients.
A viable alternative to this is concierge cardiology- a practice that allows more face time between the two parties rather than the standard 15 minute appointment. Practice principles dictate that patients pay a monthly fee to the physician in exchange for 24/7 access. They can also have access to same day appointments without restriction of time limit.
There are a number of options available to patients who choose to opt for this service. These include the following:
- Full concierge: This practice only attends to concierge patients. Patients pay an annual fee which can range anywhere from $1500 to $6000. Patients who choose this service get more personalized service time, support and convenience. In turn, physicians who work as full concierges usually accept most insurance plans for office visits. This type of service is best suited for practitioners who may want to minimize the pressure and pace of their dealings.
- Hybrid concierge: This practice blends the concierge model with traditional practice. This model allows patients to purchase concierge services at an annual fee. Practitioners continue to accept insurance. This type of service is best suited for specialists who do not practice alone but are part of a team.
- Transitional concierge: This services refers to slowly transitioning from traditional practice to full concierge. It is a program that allows both patients and doctors a chance to adapt. It may be a good choice for physicians who want to establish themselves as eventual full concierges. The slow shift builds both doctor and patient confidence in the concierge model.
There may be a number of reasons why patients join a concierge program. For instance, they may be looking for a stronger relationship with their doctor, more convenience of service and an unhurried environment.
In the case of cardiology, all these reasons become paramount as cardiology patients have varying degrees of need. For starters, their health challenges are not necessarily episodic, and they may require more frequent care.
Another feature that favors concierge cardiology is that patients consider their cardiologist as a trusted figure. Various surveys indicate that patients have a higher level of confidence in cardiologists than primary care patients. Plus, patients with a chronic condition may gravitate more toward their cardiologist than a primary care physician. And finally, cardiologists often start to play an expanded role as there are so many other health concerns that relate to the core cardio issue.
As part of a concierge program, patients can hope to experience stress free medicine accompanied by a more personalized way of communicating with their doctor. Some of these features can include:
- No or minimal wait time for appointments
- Most practices allow walk-in time during business hours
- Some practices may even provide home services
- Access to physicians via phones or email
Every service or provider will offer different features, so find out more about the program before signing up.