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Is a 'Boutique' Doctor for You?

Here's what you need to know before signing up with a "concierge" practice

So should you consider concierge care?

Assess your current medical care. If you like your doctor, can get an appointment when you need one and don't feel rushed in the examining room, there's no reason to change to a concierge practice and pay extra money.

Consider your health. If all you need is an annual flu shot and a consultation for the sniffles, concierge medicine is probably not worth the cost. But if you have a chronic condition such as diabetes or heart disease and see several specialists in addition to your primary care doc, concierge care may pay greater health dividends in terms of coordination of care and longer and more frequent visits.

Consider the location. Most practices are heavily concentrated in urban areas such as New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Miami. If there's not a practice within easy reach, it probably doesn't make sense for you.

Weigh the cost. Ask yourself whether the money you're paying out of pocket will provide a return in terms of a better relationship with a doctor and better health.

If, after weighing these factors, you think a concierge doctor might make sense for you, be sure you have answers to the following questions before signing on the dotted line. Remember: There is no standard definition of concierge care, so before signing up you must be crystal clear on what you'll get for the money.

  • Do you take insurance and will you file claims for me?
  • What services does the fee include?
  • Do you offer preventive care?
  • Do you admit your patients to the hospital yourself or do you use a hospital-based doctor?
  • Can I schedule same-day appointments?
  • Can I contact you by email or phone with routine questions?
  • Will you coordinate my care if I need one or more specialists?
  • Do you make house calls?

And perhaps most important of all, make sure you click with the physician. "Set up an appointment to interview the doctor," advises David Fairchild, M.D., senior vice president for Clinical Integration at UMass Memorial Health Care and professor of medicine at UMass Medical School in Worcester. "This gives you a chance to talk about what you want in the relationship. For example, you may be interested in alternative therapies. Does the doctor agree they're worth a try? See how the fit feels between the two of you before you sign on."

To find the name of a doctor near you who practices concierge medicine, call the American Academy of Private Physicians toll-free at 877-746-7301 or email your request, including ZIP code, to Shelly Banyay.

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