In Concierge Medicine, How Does Physician Availability Affect Patients?

For patients, physician availability is one of the big draws when it comes to selecting a concierge physician over a traditional one. While 24/7 availability isn’t anything new for most physicians, it works a little differently in a concierge model. As a concierge physician, patients are given a direct line of communication to reach you.

While this increased availability enables you to continue to offer excellent care around the clock, it can be helpful to establish some ground rules and systems to manage communication. We spoke to SignatureMD-affiliated physician Dr. Joel Meshulam who explained how he handles this:

As Joel discusses in the video above, with some smart management, the increased availability has been a good thing for both him and his patients:

When you start in concierge practice, one of the big draws is that 24/7 availability. It’s funny because doctors normally are available 24/7 or they have somebody covering for them. That just comes with the territory, but that 24/7 availability is usually managed by an agent – a beeper, an answering service, or something along those lines, whereas in this particular situation, there’s a direct line of communication. A patient will typically have a cell phone number that they can reach you on. In my office, we have a dedicated email that patients can utilize and a special office line that they can call in on.

There is that challenge, or that concern, that it’s too much, and the reality is honestly not that.

At least, that has been my experience. The patients call when they need you. Occasionally they’ll call me on my cell phone when the office is open because they mistakenly thought that my cell phone number was the office number, but the idea behind this model of medicine is that the patient gets excellent care and all the time they need.

If they’re getting that when they come in, then they’re not going to need you all that much unless there’s something serious going on.

That’s really the insurance policy they’re buying when they decide to join a concierge practice. They want to know that, if there’s a problem, they’re not going to have to wait. They’re going to get you right away and you’re going to tell them what to do, meet them at the office, whatever the case may be.

One thing that happened with me when I transitioned was that I had to get used to having time with my patients again.

I was so used to working fast that it was kind of strange to actually not have to work fast all of a sudden. It was great, but I remember clearly the first couple of physicals that I did, I ran out of things to do or say because I wasn’t used to doing them for sixty to ninety minutes. I was used to doing them in twenty minutes, so it got into questions like, “So, what’s your dog’s name?” “Where is your next vacation going to be?” but as you get used to that space, that air in your schedule, it starts to become easier to really have meaningful communication with your patients.

When you undergo a concierge medicine conversion, your increased availability will likely be one of the most appealing changes for your patients. If you are considering a concierge conversion but aren’t sure how to present it to them, we encourage you to learn how to explain concierge medicine to patients.

About SignatureMD:

SignatureMD (signaturemd.com), with offices in Los Angeles, California and Richmond, Virginia, is one of the nation’s largest providers of initial conversion and ongoing support services to concierge medicine physicians, with an expanding network of over 160 affiliated primary care physicians and specialists across 31 states.