Last September, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the American Academy of Private Physicians’ (AAPP) annual conference to learn about the most current state of private medicine. Many attendees at the conference were physicians looking to start their own private practice or a concierge practice, and many were looking for tips to enhance current practices. And there was also a group of us, young wide-eyed medical students, who are just getting exposed to the idea of privatized medicine. Concierge medicine was certainly a term I have been exposed to before, but discussing the ramifications of one payment plan versus another, and specialist referral strategies set my mind churning, and I began to think how I could design my own private practice. As a student interested in surgery—more specifically the intersection between surgery and technology—here are my key takeaways:
Technology can go really far in the realm of private/concierge medicine. In a couple of ask-the-expert style sessions, the main theme seemed to be how to balance the books while delivering the best care possible as a physician. I volunteer for a medical start-up called Epharmix in St. Louis, and I helped design automated text message and phone call algorithms to communicate with patients. One obvious solution that jumps out at me, in terms of cutting costs while maintaining quality of care, is to adopt new technology. Automated appointment reminders and automated texts/calls to patients to check monitor symptoms can go a long way in improving efficiency, while maintaining quality of care.
Our studies have shown that automated communication tools have improved patient-provider relationships, and patients are very satisfied with the overall level of care when using these tools. In terms of streamlining costs in the office, there is software like Zenefits and Namely that can handle HR logistics, and new up and coming EMR software or websites like Practice Fusion (cloud-based EMR) that can usher in a new wave of how we run our medical practices.
Surgery can jump on board this train too. The majority of the DPC conference attendees were primary care physicians, because the private medicine/concierge care service works very well for them. Surgery is another beast when it comes to the private medicine model, but there is still great potential. Throughout the conference, the Surgery Center of Oklahoma was mentioned as the prime example of a model that has succeeded in charging flat and transparent fees for surgeries while maintaining profitability. I would love to witness this center in action one day, while applying principles that I have learnt from the AAPP conference.