How I changed my career and transformed my life by acquiring a concierge practice
Independent or employed, primary care physicians are facing one of the most tumultuous health care environments in decades. As many of the earliest adopters of the concierge medicine model head toward retirement, how can the next generation best realize the opportunity to acquire a financially stable, thriving practice and achieve personal and professional fulfillment? Younger doctors seeking an entry into the rewards of the membership medicine model are increasingly able to find their perfect match by taking the reins from a retiring concierge physician.
The essays below are authored by two physicians who made the decision to purchase a practice from a retiring physician, who explain why the made the choice and how it has benefited their careers.
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 today. I share my experience 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 and 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.
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 continuous care for his loyal, profoundly older (average age 89) patients with multiple chronic conditions. Stepping into the shoes of this dedicated physician who had built a successful concierge practice by carefully tending to his patients’ needs represented the opportunity I was seeking.
With the help of practice transition experts Specialdocs Consultants, I lined up the other essential members of my team, including a lawyer, an accountant and a lender. The entire process was straightforward and transparent. The numbers for projected income, patient panel and practice expenses 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 crucial phase.
The eight-month transition process was intentionally gradual, allowing ample time for Dr. Wasserman to personally endorse and introduce me. In the years since he initially launched his practice with Specialdocs, he had developed enormous loyalty and a treasure trove of fond memories among his patients. Together, we took the time needed to let each patient 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 a member of my practice. I believe this passing of the baton was vital to the patient retention rate, which ultimately topped 85%.
I also worked with my transition team to encourage my own private practice patients to become members of the new concierge model. The message of highly personalized, preventive care; longer, unhurried appointments; and direct availability to me resonated with all. My membership panel filled up quickly and continues to expand.
There’s a richness in the relationships I have with patients that was impossible to achieve in a traditional model. I now have time to advise, educate and understand the whole patient. The experience has been career- and life-changing.
Claudia Perdei, M.D., is owner of Personalized Medical Care in Delray Beach, Florida.
My rapid journey from employed physician to thriving, independent and joyful concierge doctor
My transition to concierge medicine can be summed up most aptly by the phrase “carpe diem.” Seize the day. Although I had been considering this practice model for some time, a lightning-fast response was needed when the opportunity arose. With the support of a team of experts, my experience acquiring an established concierge practice in San Diego was swift, seamless and sweet.
Initially I cared for patients at my own clinic and then as part of a program to ease patients’ transition from hospital to home. My yearning to return to a practice centered on building relationships with patients became stronger each year, but with it came the realization that traditional fee-for-service models had evolved in exactly the opposite direction. Rushed, impersonal visits had become the unfortunate standard of care. Concierge medicine appeared to present an ideal solution, with a sustainable practice model based on membership fees and a greatly reduced patient panel that allowed individualized care. However, as a hospital-employed physician, I was missing the key to success: long-term relationships with patients.
I was stuck but found my solution when two well-regarded physicians were looking for a successor to purchase their concierge medicine practice in 2018. They had gained a reputation for clinical excellence and the loyalty of hundreds of patients over more than three decades. The only drawback: Just 90 days were given to finalize the acquisition and launch a new practice.
My emotions ran the gamut from fear to excitement. Overriding all was the strong feeling that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. But I needed to confirm that before making the leap. With the help of Specialdocs Consultants, we used every minute of that whirlwind 90 days to literally pull apart the practice and determine if acquisition was feasible. We considered everything from the current stability of the practice to the growth of the surrounding neighborhood, and we swiftly developed a transition plan. I entered my new life as a concierge doctor thrilled — but well aware of challenges ahead.
The quick ramp up gave me no time to know patients or gain their confidence before taking the reins of the practice. Every patient I saw during the first year was new to me. I am gratified to report a retention rate of more than 90%, and I’ve since added many patients of my own.
At first I frequently heard “that’s not how we used to do things.” But with patience and time, I built trust and reshaped the practice to reflect my vision. In 2020, my husband, Dr. Hector Cardenas, joined me; together, we introduced programs that became treasured offerings.
I wholeheartedly recommend concierge medicine and this unique path to it, with some advice:
Bring in the experts early. I leaned on Specialdocs’ experience and insights throughout the transition process and still do.
Assess the potential for attracting new patients by making sure the practice you acquire is in a growing, vibrant community.
Build in a period of support from the retiring physician to reassure patients that the coming “changing of the guard” is a welcome one.
Care for yourself throughout the process by practicing what you preach to patients: eat well, exercise, get sleep and manage stress. Change is challenging, but this one gives you the chance to practice medicine as you’ve always envisioned.
Carrie Cardenas, M.D., is co-owner of Cardenas Internal Medicine
in San Diego.