An emerging form of medicine is gaining popularity among consumers looking for more personalized, quality healthcare. But this type of innovative healthcare is actually a throwback to the olden days when physicians made house calls to examine patients.

As recently as the 1950s, 40 percent of all physician-patient encounters were in homes. Fast forward to present day and concierge or boutique medical care may invoke images of the super wealthy paying six-figure retainer fees for round-the-clock access to pricey doctors.

But concierge medical care encompasses a range of services and according to Concierge Medicine Today, 60 percent of concierge medical programs across the U.S. cost an individual less than $135 a month.

How Does Concierge Medicine Work?

The basic structure of concierge services involves paying a monthly or annual fee directly to the doctor that covers basic and preventive care in return for a range of healthcare options that include:

  • General appointments at either an office or your home
  • Annual physicals
  • Consultation for wellness and preventative care
  • More personalized attention — including guidance through seeing specialists, diagnostic testing and out-of-office procedures
  • 24-hour access
  • Doctor’s cell phone/email

According to MarketWatch, the majority of concierge doctors cap their practice at 500 to 600 patients, compared to 2,000-plus in a traditional practice. And because of limited enrollment, a concierge doctor is able to provide more attention and adapted care to their patients than they would in a traditional office practice.

As of 2012, there is an estimated 4,400 doctors practicing some form of concierge medicine in the United States.

Because this type of care does not have co-pays, deductibles, or co-insurance fees — it can actually save you money – depending on how often you visit a doctor. In some cases, office or in-home visits can be less expensive than in-network co-pays and include lab tests that may not be fully covered under insurance.

Over 80% of concierge doctors accept insurance in their practice and the financially savvy are finding ways to pair insurance with concierge care without overpaying by modifying their existing insurance.

For example, by selecting a high deductible plan in return for lower premiums, a consumer can take the savings and open a tax-exempt health savings account (HSA). In return, the combined savings can be used to cover the cost of concierge care.

Is Concierge Care Right For You?

With the country’s aging baby boomer population expanding coupled with a decline in the quantity of medical professionals, the number of patients in each practice has exploded. High patient numbers is placing a huge demand on already taxed physician services.

Instead of being resigned to a mere 10-15 minutes at a regular office visit, boomers are paying a little extra out of their pockets — the equivalent of a latte-a-day when you break down the monthly and annual costs — for more time, attention and choice in their overall health care.

Patients of concierge care report higher levels of satisfaction due to better service and health management. While physicians says their satisfaction comes from the extra time spent listening to their patients and providing long-term solutions instead of short-term fixes.

Before you sign up for concierge care, AARP recommends thoughtful consideration on the following:

Overall health:

If you’re relatively young and healthy, have no chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, concierge medicine may not be worth the cost.

Evaluate your current medical care:

Do you like your doctor and are appointments relatively easily to obtain? Does he/she spend enough time with you? If you answered “yes” to these questions there is probably no reason to change to a concierge practice and pay extra money.

Weigh cost/location:

Does the concierge doctor take insurance or Medicare or would it be an additional cost? Would that additional cost adversely affect your finances? Also, if there is not a concierge doctor convenient to your home, or willing to make house visits, it probably does not make sense.

To research concierge care and find a concierge doctor in your area, visit The American Academy of Private Physicians.

Do you think concierge medicine is the future of healthcare? Would you consider concierge care?