The Cost to Bring a "Concierge" Physician Straight To You

Fresno, CA We learned about it in the offices of Doctor Karen Smith-Hansen of Fresno where she was seeing her patient Jamie Holt, "I pronounce you healthy! Yeah? Wonderful." At thirty-seven Fresno resident Jamie Holt is healthy, who, for the most part, just needs well care. Her doctor, Karen Smith-Hansen, is among a half dozen so-called 'concierge', 'boutique' or 'personal' physicians in Fresno who offer unlimited office visits to their patients. Dr. Hansen-Smith spent a number of years practicing medicine in larger group practices where each physician has thousands of patients. It was not unusual for her, she adds to be expected to spend not more then 5 minutes or so with each of 20-25 patients a day, "If you look at the ability to really care for people to sit down, listen to them and take the time to care for them, you can't do it effectively and have a life outside the office with three thousand patients."

Today this former group practice physician has just 3-hundred patients in her private practice she calls 'Personal Medicine'. And time to treat and get to know and care for each one. Those patients pay a fee of between 1-hundred-25 and 2-hundred dollars a month or a lump sum for 12 months in one payment. Appointments are easy to get on the day of or day after a phone call. And there's no waiting, the doctor greets you not a receptionist.

Jamie Holt says it wasn't a hardship to come up with the money in her budget, "I spend so much money a month on things that are really frivolous." And this doctor makes house calls. "She was able to come by in the evening, check me out." A bonus when you're sick with a bad case of the winter flu.

Dr. Hansen-Smith says she will be there for her patients but she can't be their only access to medicine, the membership fee covers my practice; if someone needs to go outside and get x-rays or lab tests or see a specialist, insurance needs to kick in for that."

That's right: Insurance, for all the medical care you can't get at the doctor's office. Jamie Holt reduced some coverage offered by her employer but is still covered. She and Dr. Hansen-Smith agree some people can't afford or don't want what it in their view an investment in overall health, Dr. Hansen puts it this way, "I like being able to know my patients and really be a partner, help them know how to take care of the themselves and help them get better in a way that makes sense for them."

Concierge or Boutique medicine is definitely not for everyone but it is quietly becoming another healthcare option for those who can afford it.

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