Couple sitting on a hammock

Concierge medicine requires making choices, like how to spend your extra time

Physician burnout is at an all-time high, and depression and dissatisfaction have become commonplace in the medical field. This isn’t surprising, since most physicians work 40 to 60 hours a week—or even as many as 80 hours, in some cases. Thankfully, there’s hope. Happiness is a well-substantiated concierge medicine benefit.

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According to Concierge Medicine Today, 95% of physicians are more satisfied 10 years after converting to a concierge medicine model. Even more importantly, when asked to rank their happiness outside of work, more than three quarters of the physicians surveyed claimed to be “somewhat” to “extremely” happy.

Let’s look at what these physicians have discovered about the work-life benefits of concierge medicine.                                      

How to create the right balance

For most physicians, one of concierge medicine’s biggest benefits is seeing fewer patients and gaining additional free time as a result. In reality, however, the concierge medicine ratio isn’t so much a 50/50 balance between work and life, as it is having the flexibility to choose how much time to spend in four distinct categories:

  • Work
  • Others
  • Community
  • Private Self

Each week contains only 168 hours—this can’t be changed. What can change within the concierge medicine ratio is the increased number of non-working hours available to devote to the other three categories.

With more free time, a concierge physician can decide how to best use it, given their life stage and individual circumstances. For example, a young physician may choose to devote the majority of non-working hours to others in order to take care of a growing family. An empty nester may want to devote more time to their own needs (private self) or volunteer activities (community).

Even the work variable of the ratio can be adjusted simply by choosing the right concierge medicine model. A full concierge model provides the greatest work-life balance, but is typically less financially rewarding. A hybrid model can actually increase physician workload, leaving less time to enjoy other areas of life. The segmented concierge medicine model can be more financially rewarding, and since it typically reduces physician workload by as much as 25%, it leaves more time for other areas of life.

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How to find the right work-life ratio

Time allotment is not only deciding how much time to spend in each of the four categories, but when and how to use the time allotted. Free time can be taken in long stretches, such as vacation time or family leave, or it can mean having the flexibility to work fewer hours a day, or finding the time to take a day off every once in a while.

Likewise, there are choices to be made as to how to allot time within the non-working categories. In the area of others, for example, time can be spent with a spouse, grandkids, friends, or aging parents. Time devoted to the self can be spent pursuing hobbies, fitness interests, or relaxing with a good book.

It’s also important to reassess priorities over time and make necessary adjustments. Typical life changes, such as marital status, retirement transitioning, or a need to care for aging parents, frequently trigger priority shifts that impact the work-life ratio.

Choosing how to spend additional free time

For physicians considering concierge medicine, there are many ways to spend their newly found free time. For some, it may be spent simply staying on top of things at home, such as cooking and housework. For those raising children, extra hours can be designated for items such as parental leave, attending a child’s school events, or enjoying family game nights. Other free-time activities include preparing for a wedding or birth, or going through the grieving process after the loss of a loved one.

Those considering concierge medicine can also explore many activities after transitioning to their new practice, including:

  • Travel
  • Staycations
  • Weekend getaways
  • Spa days
  • Beach days
  • Fitness activities, such as running, yoga, golf, or marathon training                 

Those who choose to spend more time on hobbies might consider:

  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • Gardening
  • Birdwatching
  • Historical reenactment
  • Survival training
  • Home-brewing beer

In the category of volunteering, additional time could be allotted to:

  • Mentoring or tutoring youth
  • Providing pro bono medical help to those in need
  • Fundraising efforts for a charity, the theater, museums, or other cultural attractions

For Dr. Cathy Grellet, a SignatureMD affiliate in Los Gatos, California, practicing concierge medicine leaves more time for what matters to her. “Since becoming a SignatureMD affiliate, I see nine to 12 patients a day. I don’t bring work home at night. I don’t work on weekends anymore. I do things with friends and work out regularly with a trainer.

Dr. Robert Saltman, who practices internal medicine and endocrinology in St. Louis, Missouri, derives greater enjoyment from simply gaining time to unwind. “My evenings are much more relaxed because I don’t bring work home,” he explains. “I have peace of mind that I didn’t leave any loose ends.

For some concierge physicians, free time intersects with work. They devote more hours to developing their practices—focusing on activities such as team building, upgrading technology, improving the work environment, or planning a retirement transition—activities that non-concierge physicians find difficult to fit into an already-overloaded 60-hour work week.

Such work-related free time might also be used to update professional skills through continuing education or by attending lectures and conferences. Physicians can pursue advanced degrees in a particular specialty, or take courses in totally unrelated areas, such as history, art, literature, or philosophy.

Concierge physicians gain greater work satisfaction, too

Many physicians who choose to start a concierge medical practice find that work now brings as much satisfaction as their personal lives. They rediscover their passion for medicine and find greater fulfillment in practicing the way they were trained to practice.

For Dr. Grellet, the flexible SignatureMD model means not being forced by a third party to conduct specific tests during annual physicals. “No one is dictating to me how to practice medicine.

With fewer patients to fill up the workday, Dr. John Verheul, a family medicine physician in Midlothian, Virginia, reports, “Throughout the day, there is such a reduction of stress. My staff has time to laugh.

In conclusion, the concierge lifestyle is less about how physicians choose to balance work and free time, and more about having greater flexibility to spend time the way they prefer, based on their current life situation. If you’d like to learn more about how to start a concierge medical practice in order to gain greater flexibility in your own life, we encourage you to contact us.

About SignatureMD

With offices in Los Angeles, California and Richmond, Virginia, SignatureMD (signaturemd.com) is one of the nation’s largest firms providing initial conversion and ongoing support services to concierge medicine physicians. SignatureMD currently partners with more than 160 affiliated primary care physicians and specialists across 31 states, and its network is rapidly expanding.