Last month I told you about the causes of doctor burnout and how it is much higher than most other professions. The United States spent $2.6 trillion in healthcare last year. Of that, $750 billion was waste. Almost half of that waste was spent on “excessive administration costs.” This includes “inefficiencies resulting from care-documentation requirements.” In other words, like I told you last month this is related to your doctor writing endless chart notes, chart reviews, medical authorization phone calls, etc… The culprit of this waste, in my opinion, is your own insurance company.

Insurance companies are now making medical decisions regarding your treatment which supersedes your doctor. Everything from what medications they will allow, procedures they will cover, the amount of blood work they will approve, etc…is dependent on an unlicensed, untrained company employee. That should bother you. You also have much higher deductibles, less coverage, higher co-payments, and less reimbursement to the doctor that you are responsible to pay. Once again, this creates an adversarial relationship between you and your doctor. The same doctor that is spending less time with you because of increased paperwork and having to see more patients to cover their overhead.

The absolute worst part is that insurance companies are making record profits while raising your rates 18-30% in a recession! The former CEO of Aetna Insurance Company in 2010 made (are you sitting down?) $72,000,000! In one year!

Doctors are starting to get out of this losing game. The solution is called concierge medicine. A recent Accenture study found one in three doctors is considering making this switch. Here’s how it works:

  • The patient pays a retainer fee per year. This cost is different for each doctor but the two Seattle Internists who started this type of practice over 20 years ago charged $15,000 per family. Because of competition and a free-market system, I have seen this yearly charge as low as $1,500.
  • The doctor promises 24 hour care, 7 days-a-week with minimal or no waiting times. Since these practices limit the number of families they treat, they can give the patients their undivided attention without someone looking over their shoulder or denying their care. Dr. Jeremy Fine, MD, for example was chosen by Los Angeles Magazine as one of the ‘Best Doctors in Los Angeles’ for his expertise and innovative approach to healthcare.
  • His concierge practice includes preventative care, customized medical health plans specific to each patient, nutrition, exercise classes, massage, weight training, etc…(sound familiar?). “The extra time and attention my patients receive from my concierge service allows me to give them unparalleled, personalized care.” Oh yeah, he does house calls, too!
  • In the unfortunate event that you need emergency care, this doctor will meet you at the hospital and admit you personally. If you have been in an ER waiting room lately, that is worth its weight in gold.

For the doctor, this means minimal overhead, minimal paperwork, less volume of patients, higher compensation, and more time spent with their families. For the patient, they get their one-on-one relationship back again with their doctor, no wait times, unlimited access to the doctor, peace of mind in emergency situations, and a doctor they chose based on a symbiotic connection…not an insurance plan.

With the Obama Plan going into effect in 2014, this will add 30 million people onto the healthcare logs with a shortage already of approximately 100,000 doctors. The system is broken and only getting worse, in my opinion. Concierge medicine is the future of medicine and the way doctors used to practice before insurance companies. Contrary to a few medical school professors who oppose this type of practice, it will not add any costs to the present U.S. healthcare system. These academia are not on the frontlines of medicine and therefore do not understand the challenges a typical doctor faces on a day-to-day basis.

We need to fix doctor burnout. They are here to serve your health needs but ironically no one is looking out for them. After all, no one walks into their doctor’s office and asks them, “How are you doing today?”