In today’s edition of the local newspaper, The Leader Times, an article was published about Armstrong County Memorial Hospital’s new hospitalist program. The title of the article was “Concierge Medicine – Hospitalists ease demands on primary doctors while giving patients constant attention.” As most of my followers know, Concierge Medicine (also known as direct care) is a relationship between a patient and a primary care physician in which the patient pays an annual fee or retainer.
As members of a concierge medicine practice, I recommend that each of you review this newspaper article. After reading this article, I feel like the healthcare consumer in this county has been misled to believe that a hospitalist program is concierge medicine. Prior to opening my concierge medicine practice, I was a hospitalist. I can tell you firsthand that this does not correlate well with the definition of concierge medicine.
At Physician’s Promise at Speedmont Farm, concierge medicine is all about TIME. The scheduling of patient appointments considers the patient’s time, not just the physician’s time, as is routine with traditional practices. Concierge medicine is about the patient having as much time as they need with their physician to solve their problems. It is about the patient having time to ask all the important questions that 99% of the practices in this market do not have time to answer.
I find it interesting that this article stressed the point that as primary care physicians use hospitalists to manage their in-hospital patients, they will in turn obtain more time to take care of their office-based patients. Let me point out some interesting factors regarding this statement. The first point is that the local practices are so busy that most patients do not even get to speak with their physician if they call the office. They usually speak to a nurse or a mid-level provider. As patients enter my practice daily, the most common complaint that I hear about their previous physician is that they never called them with their results or that they were never able to reach them when they needed them. The next point is that there is no reasonable way to know your patients well and provide them with the high quality service that concierge medicine offers when there are thousands of patients that are part of a practice. Concierge medicine limits this service issue by limiting the number of patients enrolled in the practice at any one time. The third and final point that I would like to make is that if you look at the current trends in hospitals where hospitalist programs are started, the primary care physicians actually become no more accessible than they were prior to doing hospital rounds.
Speaking from firsthand knowledge, I can tell you that the continuity of care even in the best hospitalist program is lost when the primary care physician is not involved in the patient’s care. I took great pride as a hospitalist to try and communicate with the PCP, the patient’s family, specialty physicians on the case, and most importantly the patient themselves, however, even with this as a priority, the barrier to providing continuity of care was never truly eliminated. The Leader Times article states that there is a physician available 24 hours a day in the hospital. This is true, but what they fail to tell you is that this hospital physician is not the same person every shift or every day. As a hospitalist, I saw many days where a patient may have had 2 to 3 different hospitalists all in one day. Despite the great attempts by most programs to have physicians introduce themselves with business cards and explain their relationship with the primary care physician, most patients still do not understand and wish that their primary care physician was available to administer their care and answer their questions at such a critical time of need.
As the only true concierge medicine physician in this county, I was very disappointed in the author of the article and the hospital for portraying themselves as concierge physicians or practicing concierge medicine. For those who are members of my practice and who have experienced true 24/7, 365 days a year on-call medicine with me only as your doctor, you can understand exactly why this article does not constitute concierge medicine. As I mentioned in the title of this post, a hospitalist program is not really concierge medicine. It is just another way to attempt to cure a failing healthcare system and a way to confuse patients about who is really providing their care. I encourage those of you who have experienced true concierge medicine to share your views about this article with the hospital administration and The Leader Times, so that they may become educated in the area of concierge medicine and stop misleading the community. If you missed the print edition of the Leader Times article, you can find a similar version of the of the article online at http://triblive.com/news/armstrong/4424618-74/care-hospitalist-primary – axzz2aUcAYxcm.