Sunday, September 16, 2007

Concierge Medicine - Not Worth the Money

Recently the article First-Class Health Care -- For a Price caught my attention. It talked about the practice of boutique or concierge medicine, that is hiring a doctor on an annual retainer which would be in addition to health care insurance premiums as a way of providing better care. One of the converts was quoted as "Fifty to 75 percent of known preventive measures don't get done. This boils down to one thing -- time."

What the article failed to mention is that throughout this country there are already healthcare organizations and medical providers that do consistently get the preventive measures done at very high levels. The National Committee for Quality Assurance, which evaluates health insurance plans, estimated that in 2005, as many as 83,000 Americans died prematurely not because of hospital errors, misdiagnoses, or negligence, but because they did not get care in accordance with guidelines from national expert committees, and they did not get the care backed by scientific evidence and research. In high quality health plans, simple factors like controlling high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, and managing diabetes to the recommended levels get done and needless hospitalizations and deaths are averted.

Our healthcare crisis is not helped with concierge medicine practices. These are far from being a patch for an ailing system. There is NO evidence that the care provided by concierge medicine physicians is better than existing care. One could argue that will a much smaller number of patients and decreased breadth of practice the clinical skills of these doctors could deteriorate.

There is evidence, however, that within our country there are amazing healthcare organizations and medical providers delivering first-class healthcare consistently that does not require an annual retainer. More and more medical providers are offering same day appointments, not forced or double booked appointments, as well as the ability to email them, retrieve lab results, order medication refills, and book appointments on-line.

The real trick is Americans must reward these organizations and medical groups by seeking and demanding to have these options available to them. By patronizing these exceptional performers the same way we use other consumer goods and services will real change and better healthcare occur in this country.

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