RANCHO MIRAGE – Healthcare consumers who want personalized health care have been queuing up for the past year vying for a coveted spot in Eisenhower Health’s Primary Care Concierge medical practice, which began Jan. 1, 2018 with one physician, Dr. David Ko.
To meet the growing demand, Eisenhower Health is adding a second physician, Dr. Vinita Verghese, on the roster of Primary Care Concierge. She has been a part of Eisenhower Primary Care 365 for nearly a decade.
Prior to Jan. 1, 2018, Eisenhower had concierge positions but they were not employees of the hospital. The doctors simply leased space and Eisenhower handled their billing.
Concierge medicine is a subscription-based model for medicine. Concierge Medicine Doctors and Membership Medicine programs have become more popular in the past five to ten years, particularly in middle-class and upper middle-class suburban and metropolitan marketplaces, according to Concierge Medicine Today.
Ko’s reputation in the community contributed to the growth of his concierge practice, David Renker, director of Ambulatory Services and Special Programs at Eisenhower Health, told Uken Report.
“But also just there was a strong demand for that style of primary care, Renker said. “So we developed a waiting list, because there are people that still want to get in to see Dr. Ko. Consequently, we’ve decided it makes sense for us to add another concierge physician. We think there’s demand here in the desert.”
Verghese also has a sterling reputation in the Coachella Valley. Prior to joining Eisenhower Health, she had been in private practice since 1993. In her office on Farrell Drive she offered a hybrid model of concierge service and fee for service.
Verghese said when she heard this model of care was available at Eisenhower she expressed her interest in being part of it.
“I feel good about it because I’m the one that chose to do it,” Verghese told Uken Report. “It gives me the most freedom to do a lot more for a patient than I can normally do in the regular mode. The regular model is very limiting, based on the number of patients you have and the electronic requirements. It ties up your hands a lot. I feel a lot freer when I’m doing the concierge.”
Concierge services are a trend across the country, but the growing demand for concierge service specifically in the Coachella Valley is due in large part to demographics. For context, the average age of the Eisenhower patient is 78 years old. Seventy percent of the business Eisenhower does is Medicare, according to Renker.
“It’s the more mature generation that fits that model,” Renker said. “Because of their age they likely have multiple issues, right? They’re not a 35- or a 40-year-old who comes in and just wants to see a doctor about one issue. For someone 65, 70, 75, and, in some cases, 80 and 85, they’ve got two or three or maybe even more things going on. There is more value to having a concierge physician who can really help you navigate your care, and also be available to you 24/7.”
Concierge medicine is really a return to good, old-fashioned medicine where the physicians will make house calls when there is a medical need. Renker draws an analogy to the TV character Dr. Marcus Welby.
Ko and Verghese are available to their patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. They are accessible through traditional office visits, by phone, text and online. Patients will receive their physician’s personal cell phone number and have access to same-day appointments.
The hallmark of concierge medicine is the personal, trusted relationships that concierge physicians build with their patients. Bonds between patients and their doctors are forged in large part because of the time physicians can spend with their patients. Concierge physicians have smaller patients panel and patients tend to receive longer appointments.
An Eisenhower Primary Care 365 physician has a panel of 850 to 900 patients, Renker said. Typical primary care physicians across the country have a panel of 1,500 to 2,000 patients who are lucky if they get 10 or 15 minutes with their doctor, he said.
The goal for Drs. Verghese and Ko is between 350 and 400, Renker said, adding that many of their patients aren’t here during the summer months. A smaller patient panel means longer appointment times. Exactly how long depends on the patient.
“It’s obviously going to vary patient to patient depending on the number of issues,” Renker said. “But I will tell you that if there’s a patient of Dr. Ko’s that needs more than an hour, that patient’s going to get it. People that are willing to pay that kind of money are likely going to have multiple issues, and the expectation is they’re going to have as much time as they need.” also
One of the other most significant differences is your concierge physician will be your attending physician in the event you’re admitted to the hospital. You won’t be handed off to another physician or a hospitalist, a dedicated in-patient physician who works exclusively in a hospital. Ko and Verghese also have admitting privileges.
“The goal is a continuity of care,” Renker said.
The longer appointments, same-day appointments, home visits as medically needed, round-the-clock access to your physician all comes with a price, of course. Patients will be charged $2,500 annually. That’s roughly the cost of most people’s cable bills.
“From a price point, if you were to do a study of what concierge physicians charge in the region, you’re going to get quoted figures anywhere from $4,000 to $10,000 a year,” Renker said. “So not only are our Eisenhower concierge physicians affordable, they’re accessible.”
Eisenhower already has plans to expand Primary Care Concierge due to demand, Renker said.
There are benefits to the program not only for patients but also physicians.
One of the biggest benefits of the concierge model to physicians is alleviating burnout, according to Healthcare Finance. Last year, a Medscape National Report on Physician Burnout and Depression found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. physicians report feeling burned-out, depressed or both, with one in three admitting that their feelings of depression have an impact on how they relate to patients and colleagues.
For more information about Eisenhower Primary Care Concierge, call (760) 610-7347.