Could concierge primary care cure physician shortages?

As the strain on primary care intensifies amid health-reform implementation, up to one third of remaining independent physicians are expected to incorporate some kind of subscription fee into their business models, FiercePracticeManagement reported previously. The trend is expected to grow so rapidly, in fact, that Bloomberg Businessweek recently ran an article entitled, "Is Concierge Medicine the Future of Health Care?"

While the several physicians interviewed for the article indicated no intention of looking back, some expressed fears that certain criticisms of the model could ultimately be its undoing. In particular, Howard Maron, who founded the pioneer concierge practice MD2 International in 1996, warned that concierge doctors who limit their panel size at the same time 30 million new patients enter the healthcare marketplace could face political backlash and increased regulation, according to Bloomberg.

"Guess who is going to be the victim of the blame game?" Maron asked. "Doctors who have opted out--doctors who refuse to see patients. Who is that? Us," he said.

Nonetheless, Beverly Hills concierge doctor Albert Fuchs contends that concierge medicine isn't a culprit in causing the physician shortage at all, but a potential solution.

"The physician shortage in primary care is fueled by the fact that people aren't choosing to go into primary care," he wrote in Jewish Journal. "Nothing will attract more students into primary care than examples of happy doctors who are making a living practicing in a way that is both ethical and enjoyable."

But despite the expansion of membership-based practices available to patients at many income levels, success and happiness isn't a slam dunk for physicians. In some cases, reliance on a relatively small pool of self-pay patients can amplify a physician's financial risks--a switch that should be considered carefully.

To learn more:
- read the article from Bloomberg Businessweek
- see the post from Jewish Journal

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