Medical Marketing for Concierge Care and Direct Care
The Difference Between Concierge Care and Direct Care
Concierge care and direct care models began to appear in the mid-1990s. These models emerged as some doctors got tired of dealing with insurance companies, others wanted to spend more time with their patients, and for others, it made financial sense for their business to change their model. During this time, “Managed Care” was expanding, and doctors felt they were not spending enough time with their patients and more time on documentation. This need for more doctor-to-patient contact led to concierge care and direct care models.
What is Concierge Care?
Concierge care involves a physician charging patients an annual or monthly retainer. (This has also led to the term “retainer care” being used in this model.) The physician will receive payments from insurance companies as well. Still, the physician will offer a variety of “premium services,” such as coming with a patient to their visits to a specialist, house calls, and practically unlimited access to them. There are up to 20,000 practices operating in the United States that can be considered as a Concierge Care Practice. A traditional managed care practice would see at least 2000 patients, whereas a concierge care practice may only have 200 to 300, or even less. With fewer patients, a doctor can spend more time with patients, and patients can often get same-day appointments. Concierge care does not focus on cost reduction but rather on offering VIP service to their patients. As such, the demographic for this type of practice model tends to be older and wealthier patients.
What is Direct Care?
In response to the popularity of concierge care, direct care began to cater to a demographic that was not older or wealthy. Direct care practices do not accept payments from insurance companies or third parties. There are more than 1,600 direct care practices in the United States. They typically contract directly with families and patients, with fees around $100 to $200 monthly. Many direct care practices also offer family rates. The number of patients a direct care practice will treat is more than a concierge care practice but still far less than a traditional medical practice. A direct care practice concentrates on providing excellent care and keeping costs down as much as possible instead of offering VIP services. The demographic for a direct care practice tends to be younger and less affluent compared to a concierge care practice’s patients.
Patients of direct care practices will still carry insurance for specialist visits and hospitalization. However, patients can still save money or afford excellent care with a direct care practice. This model of care is very sensitive to keeping costs down as much as possible.
What do direct care practices and concierge practices have in common?
Less stress for the provider
Having a smaller patient panel means less overall work for a provider and the support staff. They will have to collect less data, document less, and handle billing with fewer patients. This will cut down on mistakes and burnout among providers and staff. The lower stressed providers and staff have, the more they can concentrate on quality patient care.
More time is available for doctors to be with their patients.
Direct and concierge practices allow doctors to spend more time with their patients. There is far less pressure to get them out the door as quickly as possible so they can get the next patient in and out as soon as possible. A typical managed care medical practice may see 25 to 30 patients daily to spend about 15 minutes with each patient. Delays are likely to happen and begin to build, resulting in patients being seen 30 minutes late or more at the end of the day. In addition to the time spent with a patient, additional time is needed coding treatments and procedures for insurance reimbursement. All of this time spent in this area means less time for patients.
By contrast, a direct care or concierge practice may see only 6 to 10 patients a day, allowing a doctor at least 30 minutes with a patient. Fewer patients mean fewer charting requirements, documentation, or coding when needed. This additional time will enable doctors to sit and listen to their patient’s needs and help educate them about their health. It also gives providers more time to think about a diagnosis and possible treatments leading to less rushed decisions.
What are the differences between a direct care practice and a concierge practice?
Direct care practices are generally less expensive for patients than concierge care practices.
The fees associated with direct care practices are lower for patients compared to the fees of a concierge practice. Direct care practices cater to lower-income and limited-income populations, like those on social security or a pension. Fees for these populations looking for access to quality medical care are low. This is contrasted with concierge care practices, which have higher fees for premium services. A concierge care practice will have services available that direct care practices will not, such as on-call house calls or same-day appointments seven days a week. A direct care practice focuses on affordable care, while concierge practices focus on premium care.
A direct care practice will not bill insurance, while a concierge care practice will submit claims.
The overall idea of a Direct Care Practice is “Direct.” The doctors deal directly with the patients and are paid by them, not by third-party insurance companies. There can also be an arrangement between a business and a direct care practice where a business pays for the medical services of its employees. Again, in this arrangement, no insurance company is involved with care as a business is directly paying the provider. 50% of small businesses provide some healthcare to their employees and many are looking at Direct Care Practices as cost effective way to provide this benefit.
With a concierge care practice, a provider will still charge an insurance company for claims. However, there will be other charges for the premium services they provide, such as house calls or same-day appointment availability. The retainer fee associated with concierge care practices is also higher than direct care practices. With some concierge care practices, the monthly retainer fee covers the costs and fees related to labs, imaging, and other things needed in medical treatments.
The schedule of fees can vary quite a bit with both Direct Care Practices and Concierge Care Practices.
Direct care practices provide patients with basic and preventive care, while concierge care practices offer premium services.
Direct care practices focus on providing patients with the best care possible while keeping costs down. A doctor will not order an X-ray, MRI, or expensive laboratory tests unless they think it is needed. This mindset allows a patient to get care at a much-reduced cost. This allows a direct care practice to appeal greatly to their prime demographic, those with limited or low income. Direct care practices should not be misconstrued as offering subpar medical care. Instead, these practices focus on low-cost and preventive care that will avoid high-cost treatments down the road.
A concierge care practice, however, is generally not concerned about how much is spent on care. Patients to these practices are paying a premium for premium services. Doctors and providers at these practices will order expensive lab work and imaging to give patients peace of mind about their health and more definitive answer regarding any concerns. This care, treatment, and testing come at a higher cost, but the demographic of this medical practice will be more than happy to pay for it.
What are a popular digital marketing strategies that is effective for direct and concierge care practices?
Medical Engagement Chatbot
Both a direct care practice and a concierge care practice can benefit from deploying a medical engagement chatbot. This simple program is embedded into a website and will engage site visitors as they explore the website. A medical engagement chatbot helps by assisting visitors with simple tasks and answering questions that would otherwise go to the front desk staff of a practice. While this staff is undoubtedly skilled at helping current and potential patients, staff shortage or patient volume (or both) can cause a delay in help requests being fulfilled. These delays can lead patients to seek care elsewhere.
A chatbot is best utilized by programming it with the most common tasks and questions the front desk staff receives daily. Asking the staff to collaborate in this process can often produce a great list of things to program into a chatbot. For any questions or tasks a chatbot can not assist with, it can take that request and the contact information of the site visitor and store it on a HIPAA-compliant dashboard for a staff member to handle. One of the significant advantages of having a chatbot on a website is that it is always available! It is online 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It is available when the staff is too busy to take a phone call or when a patient is trying to make a healthcare decision in the middle of the night.
Direct and concierge care practices can use medical engagement chatbots by having answers to their most frequently asked questions only a click away. Things like a fee schedule, insurances taken, services offered, or a direct link to an online scheduling system can help current and potential patients more likely to convert and make an appointment. Chatbots can also be quickly updated with new information, such as updated guidance for COVID-19 or information regarding the providers’ schedules. Overall, a medical engagement chatbot will improve website conversion rates for both types of practices.
The promotion of online scheduling has been a marketing strategy for many healthcare facilities, including urgent care centers and primary care doctors. Concierge and direct care practices should also use and promote online scheduling. Regardless of whether they are looking for low-cost healthcare or premium healthcare, today’s patients want more of a say and control in their healthcare decisions. Online scheduling can give that control to them, and it can be very beneficial to a practice in terms of efficiency, organization, and improving the overall patient experience.
To even begin considering offering online scheduling to patients, it needs to be HIPAA compliant. Any data sent to a direct care practice or a concierge practice needs to be protected. The data sent to either practice needs to be sent over a secured, encrypted connection, and it needs to be stored on a HIPAA-compliant server. This server needs to be able to limit who has access to the data and needs to be able to track who accesses, when, and if that data was moved elsewhere. All of this also should be available for an audit to ensure compliance. Not all online scheduling systems meet these requirements. For example, the scheduling system offered to businesses who have a Facebook Business Page is not HIPAA compliant and, therefore, should not be used for medical appointments.
Concierge and direct care practices can use online scheduling to attract new patients. It can also make it easier for their staff to schedule a day to be seen by a provider by connecting it securely to the patient management system. This will prevent double bookings, which can negatively impact patient experience. It also saves time for staff with fewer phone calls in the morning to go through from current and potential patients who leave messages overnight asking for appointments or changes to any current appointment.
Digital Intake Forms
Filling out forms when visiting a medical practice is a bane for patients and staff, regardless of whether it is a concierge or direct care practice. Paper forms are time-consuming to fill out and enter into a database. Mistakes can happen if handwriting is too hard to read or if typos are made by staff. Time and frustration can be saved on both ends by using digital intake forms, which can also often be embedded with the online scheduling process.
Digital intake forms allow patients to fill out the information on a computer at home or their phone at their convenience. They may even do it on their phone while sitting in the waiting room. This allows them to accurately type in their most crucial information and have it uploaded, with a review from staff, into a patient database. While typos from patients may happen, this should reduce mistakes overall. It will also speed up the process considerably. Many people have their contact information and other important information saved on their browsers and phones, allowing them to plug in some data with a single click or tap.
In practice, it makes the front desk area of a business much more efficient. Staff can concentrate on helping patients with complicated problems rather than sitting in front of a computer and typing in word for word the information a patient wrote down for them. Overall, this improves the patent experience and will lead to good reviews and positive word of mouth.
The experts at PatientGain.com are available to help you create a high-performance healthcare website for your concierge care or direct care medical practice. Contact us today, and let us show you what we have done for other practices across the country!