Pros and Cons of Concierge Medicine

It can be a challenge for older adults to get appointments to see their doctor in a timely manner, especially with the surge of people scheduling screenings and physicals postponed by the coronavirus pandemic.  But regular care for chronic and other illnesses is a critical component of prevention and treatment for medical conditions seniors are more likely to develop.  Concierge medicine is an emerging model for health care that may offer patients more personalized care, same-day appointments, and 24-hour access to a physician for a monthly or quarterly fee. 

According to a recent Seniors Matter report, concierge care, sometimes referred to as direct primary care or subscription-based care was developed in the late 1990s in response to long wait times for appointments and rushed visits common in more traditional practices.  Although prices for concierge medicine have come down since its inception, it is still expensive and accessible to mainly high-income people. 

As the model evolves direct primary care services are becoming more affordable and common.  But not all tests and screenings are covered by insurance – the services have a wide range in cost but in some cases, there may be savings for older adults who visit the doctor frequently or require procedures that are covered in the subscription fee. 

More personalized care is associated with fewer hospitalization and a greater rate of early screening and diagnosing of chronic health problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or dementia when treatment is most beneficial.   Patients with dementia are often more comfortable when they see the same doctor at their regular appointments, but patients should also understand there may be times a referral to a specialist is required.   

Anyone considering a subscription-based healthcare service should clearly understand the fee structure, commitment, and coverage.  It is a good idea to talk with the provider with who you will be interacting most frequently to ensure they are a good fit and meet your needs.  Doctors’ specialties and training are also important when considering a new health care provider. 

Critics of private health care providers argue that concierge medicine is pulling doctors away from public systems that are already stretched thin with burnout from the pandemic.   And lower-income people will face diminishing access to healthcare services.  

Read more about the pros and cons of concierge medicine in a recent Michigan State University Women’s Health Research Institute blog post.