With the year barely a month old, we’re already seeing a surge of interest in all things healthcare and where it’s headed. And while 2020 may be synonymous with perfect vision, we know no one in this ever-changing industry can claim an infallible view of the future. However, there are clear and compelling signs that concierge medicine is set to expand significantly this year, as the only model to provide a solution for burnt out physicians, marginalized patients and unsustainable costs. Here’s why doctors who are considering a change to the concierge model should consider no more but take action in 2020 - a year of enormous opportunity for concierge medicine physicians and increasing rewards for their patients.
1. Physician burnout, otherwise known as emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and loss of sense of professional efficacy, is still prevalent and unfortunately shows no signs of being resolved rapidly. Systemic change is needed, as noted in a recent National Academy of Medicine report which called for “a bold vision for redesigning clinical systems – one which focuses on the activities that patients find important to their care and which enables and empowers clinicians to provide high-quality care.” Many voices are joining the call for change, notably Mayo Clinic’s former CEO and president John Noseworthy, MD, who wrote in a recent New England Journal of Medicine essay: “The patient-physician relationship is essential to healing, and it brings meaning and purpose to our profession and our lives. My inherent optimism leads me to trust that U.S. society will aspire to create an enviable and sustainable health care system and will ultimately prioritize and realize this goal.”
As promising as this appears, it won’t happen soon enough to prevent many of the 73% of doctors who have considered quitting medicine due to feelings of burnout from proceeding with their plans. But we do know the physician-empowered focus that defines concierge medicine has come to represent a thrilling change of heart. In our recent survey of physician satisfaction with the concierge model, more than 80% of doctors described their professional morale as very positive, and virtually all said they would choose medicine as a career again.
2. The move toward value-based care poses intractable challenges certain to continue throughout 2020. The elephant in the room - recognizing that solutions benefiting society may not always benefit the physician or patient - is still relegated to a mostly silent corner. A diverse set of industry stakeholders, including payers, providers, life sciences manufacturers, technology organizations and others brought the issue to light at a recent Advisory Board Cross-Industry Value Summit, noting that value assessments can be tricky when considered from the vantage point of the individual versus a defined population. They noted: “We must be prepared for tradeoffs at the individual level” and “A truly value-based health care system would limit our access to care and provide poorer patient outcomes in certain scenarios.”
In contrast, the focus of concierge medicine has always been unapologetically about providing high quality, patient-centric care, in which optimizing individual outcomes is the sole measure of success. For patients, the highly individualized wellness plan developed with their concierge physician is one of the most cherished benefits of membership medicine.
3. Artificial intelligence (AI) technology will be increasingly utilized in medicine, especially by concierge physicians drawn to its remarkable potential in enhancing patient care. While some view AI as a threat, able to someday outperform doctors at all tasks, and others ascribe unrealistic expectations to AI, from diagnosing the undiagnosable to treating the untreatable, for concierge physicians, it’s neither. Rather, it may prove to be a source of continual innovation that enables physicians to interact more profoundly with their patients. Dr. Eric Topol posits in his forward-looking book Deep Medicine that while AI can improve accuracy and precision in everyday tasks and lower costs, “AI’s ultimate gift is time, to spend with patients and to be able to deliver better care.” Nothing could resonate more deeply with concierge physicians, who consistently report that having time to strengthen the sacrosanct connection with patients is the most rewarding aspect of the model.
4. Concierge medicine will become far diverse in 2020. The stereotypical picture of a concierge physician who is older and located in an affluent major metropolitan area is changing dramatically. The first wave of pioneering concierge physicians is now retiring after a long and fruitful career, and younger physicians who may be currently employed by a health system or looking for opportunities in a new location, are being actively recruited to take over the reins of their practice. Also changing the face of concierge medicine are women physicians, representing an increasing percentage of new and successful practice transformations. That number is certain to grow in 2020, as the benefits of being able to fully control every aspect of their career in a concierge model becomes more evident, presenting a viable solution to work-life imbalance.
5. The appeal of personalized care is reaching a younger demographic. The median age of new concierge physicians is edging steadily downward as the model shifts from end-of-career saver to a strategic, mid-career transformation fueled by younger physicians determined to practice medicine their way. Their patients are correspondingly younger too, as membership models begin to capture Gen Xers and millennials inspired by the value of on-demand, wellness-focused care. This also opens the doors to new opportunities for physicians in specialties sought out by younger patients, including OB-GYN, pediatrics, endocrinology, lifestyle and integrative medicine. There’s virtually no other model as uniquely suited to the long-term relationships and time-intensive visits needed for optimal care in these types of specialties.
By Terry Bauer, CEO of Specialdocs, a pioneering concierge practice consulting company established in 2002 that has helped physicians nationwide transform their practices with the industry’s most customized and sustainable concierge model.