For nearly two decades, these concierge medicine experts have been helping physicians smoothly transition to a membership model.
In a 2020 Medscape study of physician burnout, doctors across the nation cited the top causes of job dissatisfaction. The single biggest concern among physicians was too much time spent on bureaucratic tasks, followed closely by grueling hours, decreasing reimbursements, and “feeling like a cog in a machine.” With the traditional fee-for-service financial model forcing physicians to spend more time on paperwork and less time with patients each year, more doctors are exploring the option of concierge medicine.
As physicians consider converting to the concierge medicine model (also known as a membership medicine model), Specialdocs can help. The company’s comprehensive management of membership billing, practice marketing, compliance, and patient communication supports physician-clients before, during, and after their conversion to concierge medicine, while allowing doctors to maintain complete ownership and control of their practice.
Since 2002, Specialdocs has provided expert consulting and ongoing management services to hundreds of physicians as they transition to and practice membership medicine. Whether physicians already own their own practice, are part of a group practice, or are looking to leave a health system, the Specialdocs team helps doctors evaluate the potential of a concierge model and guide them through a successful transition.
“We can support a wide variety of different business models, and our consultants don’t push a one-size-fits-all approach,” explains Specialdocs Vice President of Business Development Dave Farr. “We work with solo doctors, we work with practices where all the physicians convert, and we work with group practices where only some of the doctors are interested in converting to concierge. Our clients are fiercely independent, and they are always the brand and the driver of their own practice.”
Before initiating a conversion, the Specialdocs team provides doctors with data-driven projections about the potential outcomes of a practice change to the membership model. To begin, Specialdocs interviews interested physicians to learn more about their financial goals and identify any potential challenges. Specialdocs also evaluates a physician’s current patient panel to determine the number of patients who might join a membership model. “Our team’s analysis considers key factors that influence membership decisions, including patient age, income, frequency of visits, nature of visits, and how long they’ve been with the practice,” Farr says. “By combining this data with our prior experience, we can provide physicians with a realistic estimate of the number of current patients likely to enroll in a concierge practice.” If projections point to a high likelihood of success with a concierge model, the team works with the physician to start the transition process.
As physicians move out of the exploratory phase and begin the change to concierge medicine, Specialdocs works closely with clients to maintain/increase patient satisfaction, manage enrollment, and ensure compliance. Farr estimates that most practices enroll 15-25% of existing patients into a new membership model.
Specialdocs assists new concierge physicians with a range of practice services including management of:
From staffed patient information phone lines and open house events, to newsletters and press releases, Specialdocs provides services to inform patients and support physicians through every step of a concierge conversion. After the initial contract term, physician clients continue partnering with Specialdocs to help their practices thrive and grow.
Unlike a traditional fee-for-service reimbursement model, a concierge or membership practice is characterized by intentionally small patient panels. Each member patient pays an annual fee and receives extensive, personalized attention and services.
“For many patients, concierge medicine may convey a sense of exclusivity,” explains Farr. “However, our network of outstanding physicians treats patients from diverse backgrounds, all of whom consider membership in a concierge practice an affordable investment in their health. The average fee for our clients’ practices is $2,000 annually or about $165 monthly, which is comparable to a cable or phone bill.”
The smaller patient panel allows both doctors and patients to reap the benefits of much-enhanced patient-provider relationships.
“With fewer overall patients and no financial pressure to churn through as many appointments as possible, doctors can spend 30, 60, even 90 minutes with each patient,” says Farr. “They have time to get to know their patients’ needs and their family history, and the result is a better experience for both parties.”
While Farr says that the concierge model may lead to a moderate increase in net income for physicians, compensation is rarely the main reason that physicians make the change.
“The predictability and sustainability of the model is a huge plus for physicians. Service fees are prepaid on an annual basis, so physicians don’t have to worry about retroactive reimbursement or hearing about how they didn’t enter the right CPT code.”
The Specialdocs team has a proven track record of highly successful transitions, regulatory expertise and strong client relationships.
“Much of what we do during a practice conversion is navigate carefully with respect to regulations and compliance,” explains Farr. “Some doctors may try to convert on their own, but there can be serious problems that arise if they are learning as they go. The fact is, we have done this hundreds of times, and we have a network of physicians nationwide who provide insight, support, and advice.”
The Specialdocs client network is a major draw for many physicians, as it offers a supportive professional community for doctors working in small or solo practices. From the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Specialdocs offered bi-weekly, interactive meetings for clients featuring subject matter experts on epidemiology, telemedicine, vaccines and the economics of healthcare.
“We have a truly gifted panel of doctors with a diverse range of experiences and expertise,” says Farr. “Our clients are extremely willing to help, reciprocate, and collaborate with one another, and this sense of community is a highlight of the network.”
Clients also appreciate Specialdocs’ fair and transparent business model. While other consulting firms may charge large upfront fees, Specialdocs only earns their management fee after a successful conversion. Other terms, including a shorter contract length and no post-contract competitive restrictions, provide physicians with more control of their practices.
“We do all the evaluation, patient surveys, and member enrollment before charging a management fee. Once patients are enrolled, we invoice a practice based on the number of members. We don’t hold money in escrow, and we don’t invoice doctors until they have collected their membership fees. We make sure our incentives are aligned with those of our clients.”
The number of concierge doctors continues to grow by up to 6% each year. If you’re thinking about making the change to concierge medicine, the Specialdocs team can help you evaluate your options, enroll patients, and manage your new practice. To learn if a membership model is the right step for you and your patients, contact Specialdocs here.