The primary care physician has always been the backbone of healthcare in America, but there clearly has been a shift in the delivery of healthcare today. Big Box stores, drugstores, urgent care centers, house calls, telemedicine, and Smartphone apps have all changed the manner in how Americans are managing their healthcare today.
There is no doubt these new healthcare models have made basic, non-emergency care more accessible and even more affordable for most patients. But, is the cost or the convenience worth the loss of the doctor-patient bond that for the most part seems to be the true price of these healthcare options?
Shortage of Primary Care Doctors Leads to Innovation
There has been a decline in the number of primary care doctors for about the last decade, adding to the shortage is the inception of Obamacare which has accelerated that decline due to the increased number of people who now have health insurance. It’s kind of been like the perfect storm, as the older primary care doctors have been retiring the younger doctors have been specializing, all of which has led to the dwindling number of primary care physicians available to treat a growing number of patients.
With a true shortage of primary care doctors available, and the problem growing, the healthcare industry began to innovate. Most of these innovations are seen as having a positive influence on healthcare, particularly among younger patients who are very tech savvy and tend to feel more empowered when they have more control and options available to them, often at lower prices. But, for older patients who are used to having a more intimate relationship with their healthcare providers and typically dealing with more than one serious chronic illness, these changes are not necessarily welcome. However, proponents of the new healthcare models say there are enough options available to accommodate everyone.
Concierge Care May Accommodate Some Patients Chronic Care Needs
For example, for the patients who prefer a primary care physician who knows their medical history, tracks, monitors and controls all of their care, the concierge care model being offered may be the route to go. Concierge care typically involves the patient paying an annual retainer fee (usually in excess of $1,000.00 dollars) for what is now considered extra services not typically covered by insurance. These extra services may include more in depth visits with the primary care doctor (longer office visit), after office hours access, and a complete in-depth annual physical. The price tag may seem hefty, especially to older patients who remember when “concierge care” used to be the standard of care during their lifetime, but for those with multiple chronic disease care needs the cost may be a necessary expense they choose to absorb.
House Calls May Be An Alternative For Older Patients
However, not all older patients are able to afford concierge care, so what is their alternative? Doctors who make house calls may be an alternative for older patients dealing with chronic disease care that still want that one on one relationship with a doctor who knows them and their medical history. The in-house care being provided by doctors making house calls is filling the gap for many seniors who are not tech savvy and quite frankly never will be. It also allows them to remain in their comfort zone knowing they have a personal relationship with a doctor who takes the time to listen to them, perform and monitor routine diagnostic tests and coordinate their care when more intensive tests or treatments are needed.
House call care is typically covered by Medicare so there are no extraneous costs involved for the patient. An added incentive to house calls is there is no waiting in line in a crowded doctors office filled with sick people, seniors often have weakened immune systems due to chronic illnesses they already have, so not being exposed to a host of germs is a big plus factor. Also mobility can become a factor for the elderly, so being seen by their doctor in the comfortable surroundings of their own home often makes the patient more comfortable in talking to the doctor about what their health issues really are.
There’s an Alternative Healthcare Model For You
As time goes forward more and more people are expected to become more in charge of their own healthcare, many may not even see the need to leave their home when it comes to basic healthcare by utilizing the many healthcare options that are now available to them. Why go to a clinic, drugstore or Big Box retailer when you can simply have a $49.00 dollar telemedicine consultation with a doctor on your Smartphone, computer, or tablet with a click of an app?
For those who are not quite ready to take the telemedicine leap, urgent care centers, Big Box retailers, grocery store chains and drugstores still offer face-to-face care at their clinics for about $30.00 dollars less than a primary care physician’s office visit would cost a patient who is paying in cash, check or credit card. Today’s smorgasbord of healthcare options has something for everyone whether you’re privately insured or on Medicare or Medicaid there’s a healthcare model for you.