Healthcare via concierge medical practices

SPRINGHOUSE, Pa. - December 15, 2009 Having a personal relationship with your doctor can be difficult with most appointments lasting only a couple of minutes. But one area practice, with doctors specializing in pediatrics, esthetic, family and internal medicine, is promising to give you a higher level of care by bringing back that doctor-patient intimacy for a fee.

But not everyone believes these concierge medical practices are the answer to what's missing in your physician's office.

After Mindi Stein watched her two parents suffer from cancer, she wanted two things from her healthcare provider: a more personal relationship and more preventative care. She says she found it at the Welcare Center in Springhouse.

"Just the level of medical attention they are able to provide is what made me switch over to this practice."

Dr. Jayson Dupree is one of three doctors who recently opened this concierge practice. In addition to giving his cell phone number out to all his patients, the practice guarantees same day appointments. If you're too sick to come in to the office, no problem, the doctor will come see you.

"In this model we are able to provide our patients with this level of service by keeping our practice small."

"I'm a working mom, we have two kids, my husband is working as well we are very busy and we don't have time to sit in a pediatrician's office for 45 minutes to be seen for 5 minutes."

Because the practice is about 1/3 the size of most primary care physician's offices, the doctors are also allotted the time to give their patients a much more comprehensive annual physical which includes a battery of blood tests and a stress test. But all of this comes at a price.

"Much of these preventative services are not covered, that's why we have an annual membership fee."

That fee runs about $1800; which is where some criticism of this concierge model has come into play.

Richard Wender of Thomas Jefferson Univeristy says better healthcare should be something everyone has access to, not just people who can afford it. "Rather than contributing to a decrease in health disparities it risks increasing health care disparities."

Wender warns that even if you can afford the couple thousand dollars a year to pay for this healthcare upgrade, you need to be careful if you were ever to get sick. Many insurance companies do not recognize these concierge services and the ones that do often consider them out of network. That may cause problems with insurance coverage if you were to need more specialized care.

"People have the right to make a choice in the market I think people have to be very careful on what the impact would be on their regular insurance if they were to get sick."

The bottom line is you need to clearly understand what your insurance company covers and what it doesn't. But for many this is an option for more personal care and convenience that is really worth the money.

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