The COVID-19 pandemic has offered physicians many lessons—one of which centers on the viability of our typical healthcare model. The economic shutdowns and stay-at-home advisories have shown a spotlight on the fact that the traditional primary care model is largely unsustainable, especially during trying times.
As Dr. Chris Loo, MD-PhD, explains on KevinMD.com, events like 9-11, the 2008 financial crisis, and COVID-19 illustrate that “the concept of ‘job stability’ that was highly touted as a guaranteed benefit among physicians no longer exists in the traditional sense of the word.” He adds that physicians must now make plans to create their own “job stability.”
How has your practice fared thus far? And are you prepared—financially and otherwise—to weather the next crisis? Now is the time to take stock. If you’re less than confident, you may want to consider transitioning to a new medical model, and concierge medicine could be the reliable lifeline you need.
Ask yourself these four questions.
Do you have stable income?
It’s hard to care for your patients when you can’t financially keep your doors open. Yes, some physicians have been able to stay afloat thanks to loan programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, but a survey done by a Richmond-based advocacy group for primary care doctors found that half the doctors who sought such loans were unsuccessful. Of the nearly 3,000 respondents:
19% said they had to temporarily close their practices because of financial problems
42% had to lay off or furlough staff
About 10% said they will have to close in the next month because of financial shortfalls (data reported May 4, 2020).
Telemedicine has helped somewhat, but payments have been “stingy and slow to arrive.” Requirements for telemedicine reimbursement have also been quickly changing and different by payor, adding to the complexity. Eighteen percent of the doctors responding to the survey said they had been denied payment for virtual visits.
But physicians in CCPHP concierge practices have been able to rely on steady membership income—even without office or virtual visits.
Dr. Bernard Schayes, an internist with a CCPHP concierge practice in New York City, explained in our recent webinar, “During this pandemic, my office closed. … The only income really is from the concierge model. The check is always there. The accounting is very clear, and I really appreciate that.” With this confidence in his membership income, Dr. Schayes was able to assure his staff that they would keep their jobs and their paychecks.
Dr. Jeffrey Graf, also a CCPHP primary care physician and cardiologist with a solo practice in New York City, agreed with the importance of the financial model with concierge medicine. “I’m in practice by myself. I run a business. I have salaries to pay. I have overhead, which is enormous in Manhattan. Financially, this is a disaster. Were it not for the concierge program, I could not survive.”
Do you have robust telemedicine and digital health capabilities?
Can you care for your patients when you can’t see them in person? Despite the fact that reimbursements for telemedicine have been unreliable, virtual visits remain one of the next best options if you can’t see your patients in the office.
Dr. Alan Morrison, a CCPHP primary care physician with a concierge practice in Washington, DC, explained in an interview, “My ability to get back to people and respond to them in times like this is totally different than what it used to be, primarily because of the connectivity. The fact that we were ready to go with connectivity and telemedicine from the start, that changed everything.”
Dr. Graf needed more than just virtual visits. As a cardiologist, he was struggling to care for his patients remotely, until CCPHP Co-Founder and President Dean McElwain suggested remote monitoring. Graf explained, “As a cardiologist, it’s very important for me to be able to monitor people’s blood pressures when I’m not in the office. This tool let me see all the data on my own computer screen. … It was very, very helpful and it took a lot of pressure off me.”
Don’t forget to evaluate whether you or your staff have the expertise to get reimbursed appropriately for virtual visits and telephone calls. If not, consider a concierge partner that can help you to navigate that complexity.
Do you have extra time and attention for your patients?
The COVID pandemic heightened anxieties for just about everyone. Whether evaluating or preventing pathological illness or calming emotional concerns, many people needed extra time with their physicians.
“These have been amazingly stressful times for everyone,” explained Dr. Graf. “I had patients calling me two to three times per day. It was nice that they were able to reach me. They were happy about that, and I was fortunate to be able to do it.”
Is this something you’ve been able to do for your patients?
In fact, many doctors—particularly specialists—have been nearly impossible to get in touch with during the COVID outbreak. If you found yourself in this position, consider how you could stay in better touch with each patient during the next period of intense need. Concierge may be the solution. Thanks to a smaller patient panel and a high degree of connectivity, CCPHP physicians have been able to spend the time they need with each member.
“This model really allows me to determine how much time to spend with a patient based on what they need,” said Dr. Schayes.
Dr. Graf went so far as to contact every single member of his panel to check in and see how they were doing. “I think that created a great sense of relief. Patients were extremely happy to hear from us, that we were okay, and that we were there for them. That’s the liberty that CCPHP lets you have.”
Does your support staff have your back?
There’s so much that goes into a successful practice beyond the medicine—especially during a crisis. In the CCPHP concierge model, we’ve been able to support our physicians and their members in a variety of critical ways throughout the COVID pandemic.
One of these supports has been serving as an information curator, gathering and sharing reliable resources and updates about the pandemic. This has included information on treatments, testing availability (including antigen testing), and more. It has also included a live Zoom conversation with an infectious disease expert, and weekly physician calls to make sure they have everything they need for their practices.
We’ve even helped our physicians acquire PPE when it was otherwise nearly impossible to do so.
Perhaps most importantly, CCPHP has served as a critical resource during transitions between in-office visits, telehealth and reopening. As many offices look to reopen, American Medical Association guidelines for doing so safely are extensive. CCPHP is helping member physicians to navigate pre-planning, implementing safety measures, tele-triage and more.
We really do have each doctor’s back. Do you and your practice have this kind of support?
Now is the time for action.
How confident are you that your practice can weather the next crisis? Are you ready for a second wave of COVID-19, for example, or could your practice use a more stable, reliable foundation? Now, more than ever, is the time to shore up your practice’s future.
To learn more about how the concierge model is helping physicians to find solid footing, check out our most recent webinar: Concierge in the COVID Era: How Concierge is Helping Doctors Navigate a Changing World
If you would like more information on how to collaborate with CCPHP, please fill out the form below and we will contact you.