I finally did it. Today I made the plunge and signed up for MDVIP, a so-called concierge or boutique medical practice. What drove me to that decision? Several factors. Becoming a more empowered patient, a more informed patient, I grew increasingly aware of the promise and potential of medicine practiced in a patient-centered fashion. Also, as a busy person the time spent in doctors’ offices and the time I was spending tracking down results and coordinating my care was more than I felt I should have to give to the process. When I went to schedule my last primary care visit and was given a date 3 months away I cracked. Straw meet camel’s back.
Now I can’t go without a primary care physician and with my cavalcade of conditions not just anyone would do. What were my choices? (1) Find another primary care physician who wasn’t, like my PCP, overbooked with patients and undersupported by technology; (2) Pay $2000 for an Executive Health Screening (at the same academic medical center no less) that offered convenient scheduling of a full day of all the tests and examinations I needed but still left me without a longterm relationship with a primary care physician; or (3) sign up with an MDVIP physician who, due to a strategically limited caseload of patients at $1500 a pop could offer the holy grail of true access. Access to a timely appointment, access to the doctor without waiting hours, access by email, and by phone in a timely matter, access to my health records and lab records.
Some may criticize me joining such a practice, akin to putting my kids in private school if I live in a bad school district instead of becoming head of the PTA. As the daughter of schoolteachers who gave a combined 72 years to improving education for others’ children while sending me to the best option for my growth, I say one can support the system of tomorrow without sacrificing to what it is today.
Many more criticize doctors who set up MDVIP practices. If you google MDVIP, a for-profit company based in Florida, as I did, you will find a host of links referring to MDVIP as a scam, a rip-off, for greedy doctors abandoning patients, etc. I say to my fellow patients — Stand down! Take a breath and think about it. Your doctor went to college, medical school, residency, fellowships to learn everything needed to treat you excellently. Unless their families were independently wealthy, they accrued large debt, and now you want them to save your life for the same amount of money that you pay your teenage babysitter. Come on be fair. You say, “but my doctor gives me lots of attention. Why should I pay extra for what I already am or what I should be getting?” Well then you are why the rest of us wait 2 hours. And your doctor is on his or her way to being a burnt out shell who will leave the profession in a few years. The first thing out of the doctor’s mouth when I went to visit the MDVIP practice was, “Under my former practice model I was pressured to spend increasingly less time with patients who had increasingly more problems. I couldn’t do for them what they and I both wanted to be able to do.” Sounds like just the type of doctor we all want.
The only real solution is more primary care physicians. Fully paid tuition, better reimbursement for preventive and coordinating services, and other supports for those who go into and stay in primary care would be one of the best investments this country could make to ensure true access to quality healthcare for all.