Concierge Medicine – The Endless Ethics Debate
Does Tufts Have The Answer To The Endless Ethics Debate?
Just a few days ago, the New York Times ran an article regarding concierge medicine, and since then the national focus has gone from Social Security and Medicare to concierge medicine and personalized care. When concierge medicine takes center stage, so does the debate on ethics. And while the New York Times’ blog turned into an advertisement for Tuft Medical Center in Massachusetts by the end of the discussion, Tuft Medical Center just might have the right idea to squelch the ethics debate.
At Tufts, they are practicing concierge medicine as well as traditional general medicine, and they allow patients to decide which option is better for them. For the patients who chose a more personalized approach to their health care, a concierge medicine option is available where those patients have “longer doctor visits, around-the-clock access to physicians, comprehensive wellness and prevention screenings (or what we like to call executive physicals) and on-time office appointments within 24 hours of a request.” Sounds extremely similar to what we do here at SignatureMD.
The ethics issue is tossed out the window when you consider the fact that the concierge medicine yearly fee goes directly back into Tufts’ medical school, “teaching medical students and trainees” and allowing Tufts to offer “free care to impoverished patients.” So in this model, everyone truly wins because concierge patients retain the personalized care that they seek, while ‘ethical standards’ are upheld by providing for “impoverished patients.”
Here’s the rub; what is ethical about a traditional practice physician is falling into the red because of healthcare reform bureaucracy, is losing money due to Medicare cuts, and is forced to see more patients in less time? Is it unethical for that physician to seek out a better alternative so that they might live a better, healthier life?
Here’s some irony as well; the NYTimes article refers to a national meeting that took place this past year to discuss the ethics of concierge medicine. It was expected to be a day of debate and heated arguments titled “Concierge Medicine: The Debate Continues.” The day ended up being an informational seminar for physicians who were more interested in converting to concierge medicine than debating the ethics of it.
As one attendee put it; “I thought it was like skimming the cream and I don’t want any part of it. On the other hand, when you see how crippled you are in general internal medicine, you have to say there must be some other way to do it.”