Bootcamp Fall 2022: Debunking the myths of membership medicine

Medical Economics Journal, Medical Economics November 2022, Volume 99, Issue 11

A misconception physicians have is that their patients are not looking for a different type of care. However, research shows this couldn’t be further from the truth.

To view the full video, click here.

INTRODUCTION

Ongoing changes in health care negatively impacting the doctor-patient relationship have given rise to innovative delivery models. Membership-based medicine is one such model that physicians and patients alike are gravitating to because if offers a better health care experience. Patients in membership-based practices pay a fee above insurance for a suite of extra services provided by the same doctor. Because these alternative care models generate revenue not wholly tied to third-party reimbursement, physicians can have smaller practice sizes enabling them to spend more time with each patient and achieve a healthier work/life balance.

This Physician Bootcamp session dispelled common misconceptions about membership-based models and detailed why primary care physicians are exploring solutions to volume-based practices.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  • Learn the truth about membership-based medicine.
  • Understand how a membership-based model can benefit physicians and patients.
  • Hear from a physician how his experience in the MDVIP model compares to traditional primary care.

MEET THE PANELISTS

Drew O’Donnell
Regional Vice President
MDVIP

John Burpeau, M.D.
MDVIP-affiliated Physician
Texas

Myths about membership-based medicine

A misconception physicians have is that their patients are not looking for a different type of care. However, research shows this couldn’t be further from the truth. As MDVIP Regional Vice President Drew O’Donnell explained, patients want to feel empowered, partner with a physician who knows them and be in control of their health care dollars. Considering how COVID-19 uprooted the medical system, now more than ever patients want closer relationships with a doctor they trust, high-quality customer service and conveniences offered in most other industries.

Founded in 2000, MDVIP is the national leader in membership-based care with over 1,100 affiliated physicians serving over 370,000 patients. During this discussion, O’Donnell was joined by John Burpeau, M.D., an internist from Houston, who shared how MDVIP’s model has improved his life and his patients’ lives.

Burpeau began practicing in 1995, and in 2007, he became one of the first two MDVIP-affiliated physicians in Texas. Burpeau knew he was ready for a change when he was seeing 30 patients a day. “For an internist, that’s a lot when handling complex problems,” he commented. Burpeau said he would be in and out of exam rooms in six to eight minutes, which isn’t enough time to get the full picture.

Overcome by increased patient volumes and unmanageable administrative work, he had less time for patients and a personal life. For Burpeau, something had to give; this was not sustainable. Then he attended an MDVIP-hosted event with his partner and learned about this membership model built on having more time for patient care and self-care. Although initially hesitant to make a change, Burpeau now says, “I have no regrets!”

While transitioning a practice might seem daunting, MDVIP has experienced teams, support and resources dedicated to converting from a traditional to a membership-based model. They also first conduct a predictive analysis to assess if their model is the right fit for your practice. Burpeau describes patient reaction as extremely positive. Once they followed him into his MDVIP practice, they quickly appreciated the value of this more individualized approach to care. In fact, MDVIP practices across the country maintain a +90% membership retention rate and a +90% satisfaction rate among patients and affiliated physicians.

Another common misconception about membership-based medicine is that it’s only for the wealthy. According to O’Donnell, MDVIP membership costs $1,800-$2,200 for the annual wellness services and is compatible with Medicare and most commercial plans. This makes the program affordable to many patients. Burpeau believes his panel represents every socioeconomic group but consists mostly of middle-class individuals.

“It’s not an exclusionary model. It’s reasonably priced for my patients,” Burpeau explained. He went on to dispel another myth, that just because patients pay a fee, they do not call him at all hours because they know it’s easy to reach him for an appointment or phone consultation whenever they need him. The fear of being on call 24/7 is often voiced by physicians contemplating membership-based medicine, but Burpeau reinforced that patients respect the doctor-patient relationship, and since you can spend more time with them during appointments, they feel well cared for and are not demanding.

MDVIP affiliation has also enriched Burpeau’s personal life. Burpeau said he had three daughters at home when he transitioned to MDVIP. After switching to this model, he was able to be more present for his family participating in his children’s sporting events, nightly dinners, weekend activities and vacations. It was a 180. Years later, with daughters in college, the model’s financial stability continues to be a plus for his family.

Burpeau emphasized that time is the critical component to being the best doctor you can be. Practicing in a membership-based model that allows you the time to slow down, be more thorough, talk to, and more importantly listen to your patients, it makes all the difference. “When you’re rushed, no matter how smart you are, things can slip through the cracks. That rushed feeling is gone now,” Burpeau said.

Takeaways and solutions

If you are dissatisfied professionally, personally or financially, O’Donnell and Burpeau offered the following advice:

  • Can you see yourself continuing to practice medicine the same way for the next five or more years? For Burpeau, when his business manager said he needed to fit in at least two more patients a day to maintain his overhead, he “just couldn’t do it.”
  • Physicians are data-driven, so make sure you use reliable data to forecast your success in a membership-based model. MDVIP offers a free assessment to predict patient interest in your current practice and your market and determine how many patients you and/or your group need to join to make the model viable. Burpeau’s practice opened strong and even has a waiting list due to growing patient demand.
  • A concern of every physician thinking about moving into a membership model is the ongoing care of patients who choose not to join. Burpeau reassured those working with MDVIP that helping patients find a new home is their priority. O’Donnell elaborated that MDVIP will not transition a practice without a well-developed continuity-of-care plan for patients.
  • Do you want to practice medicine the way you were trained and have time to research cases? Burpeau’s counsel is if you chose primary care because you enjoy the relationship side of medicine and now find that you miss connecting with your patients on a deeper level, membership-based medicine is a cure.
  • Nothing will change unless you take a chance to explore your practice options. “Put your toe in the water,” Burpeau recommended, adding that he regrets not making the transition sooner.