3 tips for avoiding concierge-practice failure

Like it or not (he doesn't), Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam predicted in a recent piece that concierge practice may represent the future of going to the doctor's office.

Citing Cambridge-based Iora Health Care, which offers reasonably priced ($50-$70 a month) primary care plans that allow doctors to keep their patient load at manageable (i.e., 600-700) levels as an example of "concierge care for the masses," Beam noted that the trend may not be as minor as current statistics may indicate.

But even if patients such as Beam eventually begrudgingly agree to pay a retainer fee to see their doctors (he wrote that he's had two physicians switch to a concierge model and declined to join), the transition can be rockier than many physicians anticipate, according to a post from Concierge Physician Resources.

According to the consultant-authored piece, practices should heed the following tips when opening a new or transformed office:

  • Don't rush the process. It's not uncommon for physicians to state they have an office space picked out and want to get up and running in 30-60 days, the authors wrote. But as with opening any new office (including a traditional medical practice), it's critical to allow adequate time to hire staff, implement technology and prepare a physical space. If designing a building from scratch, it could take up to 40 weeks before staff and patients could occupy it.
  • Use conservative numbers. "Always plan on a best and worst case scenario in your revenue pro forma in case the new concierge members are more difficult to enroll or you encounter competitors you weren't aware of in your initial market research," they wrote.
  • Select the right technology. While there are currently more than 300 electronic health record/practice management system vendors certified by the CCHIT, "only about 5 percent are going to be optimal choices for you," the post stated. The author advised making sure you work with an unbiased consultant knowledgeable about selecting the right features for you and experienced in implementing the technology.

To learn more:
- read the column from the Boston Globe
- see the post from Concierge Physician Resources

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