April 8, 2024

Concierge physician practices expanding to large hospitals

Editor's Note

The practice of concierge physicians is expanding as thousands of doctors at large hospital systems shift to a model facilitating high fees and decreased patient load, according to an April 1 report in KFF Health News.

The concierge physician model began decades ago in wealthy areas of Florida and California to serve hospital donors. Many of the practices are backed by private equity. More recently, concierge physician practices have expanded to large hospitals including Northwestern Medicine in Chicago, Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, University Hospitals in the Cleveland area, and Baptist Health in Miami, where hospitals charge patients annual membership fees of $2,000 to $4000 to secure easier access to care. These annual fees are on top of typical health insurance costs, including copayments and deductibles. 

Hospitals are drawn to the concierge system because it helps attract top doctors, and guarantees an affluent patient population with private insurance. 

Compared to traditional primary care doctors who see thousands of patients, concierge physicians tend to have just a few hundred in their practice. This setup can enable more personalized care and make it easier to offer same-day or next-day appointments, the report notes. However, critics of the model say concierge physicians are adding to the shortage of primary care physicians, the overburdening of traditional hospital staff, and delays in care for patients. 

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