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My route to becoming a concierge physician wasn't traditional.
My route to becoming a concierge physician may not be traditional, but having successfully navigated this life-changing trajectory in 2019, it’s one I would unhesitatingly recommend to fellow travelers – even more so in today’s challenging environment. I share my experience of acquiring a concierge practice from a beloved retiring physician here because I understand the hesitation many doctors have of making such a significant career and life change, and the fear of not succeeding. But two years later I can look back and see some very evident truths: it was the right move, the right way to accomplish it and I am so grateful that I was able to launch a thriving independent practice that continues to grow. In fact, I am now actively seeking another doctor to join me due to the increased demand for personalized care as the pandemic continues to highlight the irreplaceable value of a meaningful, long-term physician-patient connection.
This is not a story of sudden and serendipitous good fortune, but one of methodical, thoughtful planning that can be replicated by other physicians. For me the seeds had been planted long before I encountered a widely respected concierge physician in Delray Beach, not far from my own private practice. I had previously explored making the change to personalized medicine but an analysis of my practice showed it was not likely to succeed with my current patient panel. Determined to find another way, I was delighted to meet Dr. Bryan Wasserman at a social gathering and learn that he wanted to retire in the next year…but not before he found a successor who would ensure that all his loyal, profoundly elderly (average age 89) patients with multiple chronic conditions would receive continuous care. Stepping into the shoes of this dedicated physician who had built a successful concierge practice by carefully tending to his patients’ needs represented exactly the opportunity I was seeking.
With the help of practice transition experts Specialdocs, I lined up the other essential members of my team, including a lawyer, accountant and a lender. Full disclosure: the first bank I applied to for a loan turned me down, but with the help of my attorney, I presented the financial data to another bank, and found them much more receptive to the ultimate success of my concierge practice. The entire process was straightforward and transparent. The numbers for projected income, patient panel and practice expenses made it easy to verify the soundness of the acquisition and clearly showed the potential to realize a return on investment within a year or two of purchase. With the loan in place, I was ready for the next, most crucial phase.
The transition process was intentionally gradual, starting in fall 2018 and not becoming final until spring 2019, allowing ample time for me to be introduced and wholeheartedly endorsed by Dr. Wasserman personally to each patient. The eight-month rollout period was vital because he had developed enormous loyalty among his patients, many with years-long relationships and a treasure trove of fond memories. In the years since he had initially launched his concierge practice with Specialdocs, the level of care provided had unquestionably proved its value to patients, and so required a very skillful and thoughtful passing of the baton to me. Together, we took the time needed to let patients know my commitment to them was as strong and enduring as Dr. Wasserman’s, and that they would continue to be incredibly well cared for as members of my practice. This was not going to happen in one brief meeting, but over the course of months, I was able to spend time with every patient and build trust. I believe this strategy made a significant difference in the patient retention rate, which ultimately topped 85%.
At the same time, I worked with the transition team to encourage patients at my own private family medicine practice to become members of the new concierge model. The message of highly personalized care at the office and the hospital, direct availability to me, longer, unhurried appointments and focus on preventive medicine resonated with both sets of patients, as well as new ones. My membership panel filled up quickly, and continues to expand.
There's a richness in the relationships I have with patients now that was impossible to achieve in a decade of practicing in a traditional model. I had wanted to practice medicine this way for a very long time. There is just no comparison between feeling perpetually rushed and wanting to finish each visit as quickly as possible because you know others are waiting, and having the time to advise, educate, and understand the whole person. The experience has been career- and life-changing, and I am so grateful to have found both an outstanding concierge practice and experts who worked with me at every step of the process to ensure my transition was a success.
Claudia Perdei, MD, is owner of Personalized Medical Care in Delray Beach, Florida.
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