Concierge Medicine: More time with your doctor for a fee

Published: May. 27, 2019 at 4:12 PM CDT
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"I see a lot of patients who come in who really like their primary care doctor or primary care provider, but just don't get to spend enough time with them," says Jeffrey Hunt, D.O., an Internal Physician with Sanford Health. "A lot of times, in today's modern medical environment, for various reasons we're often times limited with our time with what we can discuss."

Hunt says the current medical system doesn't always allow doctors to spend as much time with their patients as much as they'd like, but that could be changing. Sanford is looking into starting a concierge medicine program, which would give patients 24/7 access to their doctors for a fee - but the extra care is worth it.

"Medicine doesn't happen 8 to 5, Monday through Friday," Hunt says. "We could go back to the way medicine used to be – where you got sick at 10, 11 o'clock at night, not having to go into an emergency department at the last minute but being able to call your doctor, ask questions, and if they need to see you – that's what they did."

"We take our time. We're able to spend hours with a patient if we need to have that amount of time with them, and to get to the root of the medical problem," he continues.

"I've looked at a couple programs across the country and visited them to see what they do," Hunt says. "A lot of programs across the country range from anywhere from $50 to $100 a month on upwards."

But not everyone is convinced that concierge medicine is the best direction to go in. The people I spoke with say, when it comes to making health care more accessible - it's more important to lower costs than change doctors' hours.

"If anything can be done to lower the prices – health care seems pretty brutally expensive to get anything done, just to show up at the clinic or anything like that is always really expensive," says Eric Skalicky, a Grand Forks resident. "I would be looking at things that could bring cost down – that's probably my biggest concern."

Those concerns can be found across the country - with one study finding more than 40% of Americans skip the doctor's office entirely due to cost. Still, Hunt says better care can lead to lower costs - creating healthier people with healthier finances.

"When we are able to establish a relationship, get to know you, get to know your family, get to know all of your medical problems – often times, we actually find people order less tests and need less images mainly because we're able to think critically about you as a patient," he says. "I would actually argue you take better care of your patient, less time spent in urgent care, less time spent in emergency centers, so overall, improved costs."

Sanford's concierge medicine program could roll out within the next year.