When he turned 65, Benny Bee Sr. decided to get a physical. It was merely a formality, as Bee, who owns a group of radio stations in Montana’s Flathead Valley, was in peak physical condition, biking and lifting weights five days a week.
Instead of a traditional physician, Bee saw Dr. Doug Pitman, who had recently turned his primary care practice into a “concierge” practice, in which patients pay providers directly, often circumventing insurance companies.
Pitman — an affiliate of SignatureMD, a network of more than 50 concierge physicians in 14 states — did something most traditional internists avoid because of its time and cost: He conducted a comprehensive physical that included a battery of preventative and diagnostic baseline tests and spent more than an hour discussing the results with Bee. Based on initial tests, Pitman referred Bee to a cardiologist who discovered a completely blocked artery. Within 30 days, Bee underwent a quadruple bypass to clear it.
Bee says that for him, concierge medicine has delivered more attention, more value and, as a result, better health. However, before seeing a concierge doctor, you should carefully consider the costs and the potential benefits of the services such a doctor can provide.
What Is Concierge Medicine?
Concierge medicine — also called “boutique,” “retainer-based” and “private physician” care — typically describes one of two business models.The first is a practice in which the physician does not accept insurance.
The second, and more common, is a practice in which the physician accepts insurance for routine services and bills patients directly for services that aren’t covered.
In both cases, patients pay a monthly or annual fee in exchange for a menu of services that typically includes:
- Longer appointments
- Same-day and next-day appointments
- No waiting
- House calls
- Preventive care physicals
- Wellness coaching
- Cutting-edge medical testing
- 24/7 physician access
Patients get immediate and extended access to their physician, with face time often totaling 30 minutes or more. Patients who don’t need that much time could text a question to their doctor, consult with them via video conferencing or email photos for a diagnosis.