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Aug 22, 2012

Do you post comments on articles?  Last week, the #1 read and shared Wall Street Journal article generated 985 comments (and counting…). It happened to be about a subject that I’ve been watching (curiously) for more than three years.  “Why the Doctor Can’t See You” discussed the growth of concierge medicine.  This, on the heels of a New York Times piece “Doctor Shortage Likely to Worsen with Health Law.”

The WSJ author, John C. Goodman, notes that Health Reform will add 30+ million Americans on insurance.  And once those people have insurance, their usage of the healthcare system will double (just like if you finally took your car in for a checkup after three years without so much as an oil-change).  Add to that the forecasted coming shortage of physicians and what’s the result?  A wait time longer than building a house from the ground up!

Goodman weaves a case (like a John Grisham lawyer) to prove our physician access will decrease in the future as our wait-times for a visit increase.  As an ex-Canadian, I’d caution you against saying something like “oh, that’ll never happen.” Here’s why:  10% of my ex-countrymen can’t get assigned to a primary care physician because there aren’t enough of them, and wait-times for visits and surgeries are longer than ever in Canadian history.

One of Goodman’s conclusions:  there will be continued growth of “concierge medicine”.  Have you heard of this before?  People can get personal access to a private physician IF they’re willing to pay thousands of dollars extra per year.  Do you know someone who has done this? Have you watched an episode of “Royal Pains”? 

This high-end service has always been available…for a price.  The President gets private care.  So do CEOs all over the country.  And hey, you don’t think Angelina Jolie is standing in an Emergency Room for four hours at midnight with those six kids, do you?  

I agree with Goodman – when normal visits become a hassle, many more main-stream people will consider alternative ways to get care. However, before you sign away the farm, let’s also take a moment to consider our options.  

First, what issues consume most doctor, urgent care center, or emergency room visits?  Small things: colds, flus, sinus infections, bladder infections, ear infections, allergy flare-ups, queries about prescription usage, questions like “this muscle hurts – should I be concerned?”  Did you know the American Medical Association says that 70% of all doctors visits could have easily been handled via phone or internet?  Do you need to spend $1500+ to get quicker access to solve these kinds of things?  No. Think how many [insert favorite thing here] you could buy for that.  

My question is “why should you even have to get face to face with a doctor for such things?”   You shouldn’t.  And you don’t have to.  Today, 35 million Americans have access to doctors who treat these simple issues over the phone. It’s another form of concierge medicine – access to a board-certified physician 24/7/365 within minutes (including a prescription, if needed).  And, it happens to be very economical because the physician only needs a cell phone and a computer connection.

Here’s the good news:  when purchasing this service on a large scale, it becomes extremely inexpensive.  Here’s even better news:  for the price of a lip-gloss (or a couple fancy lattes), you can have doctor visits over the phone, too! And we haven’t even touched on your savings of time OR frustration for not having to sit in a waiting room with a bunch of other infected people!

So if you like the sound of solving a doctor shortage with concierge medicine, but don’t think you’re ready to fund a private physician’s summer home, test the waters!  There are many services out there and we can help at  Use the savings on your own summer home, or a gym membership, a spa trip, shoes, a vacation, etc., etc., etc…


Reid has a passion for helping brokers & employers strategize fresh approaches to benefit plans that contain costs and increase access to care - helping employers & employees control their healthcare dime, time, and peace of mind. He writes & speaks around the country and is the Co-Founder & CEO of freshbenies.

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Tanya Boyd
Tanya Boyd
President of Tanya Boyd & Associates

I didn’t want to go to urgent care or the ER. Using Doctors Online in my freshbenies membership, I went online to ask a doctor. The doctor responded and said to check my blood pressure. He followed up with the next day to make sure my numbers were OK. By then, the feeling was starting to go away. He told me if it persists to contact my doctor. It was great that I didn’t have to go somewhere and wait forever, and it was free.” - Kelli from Texas

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Marta from NC

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