In this age of managed care, and as discussions of healthcare reform heat up, one form of healthcare delivery is continuing to receive attention from investors and doctors: “concierge medicine,” which offers amenities in health delivery for high-paying elite customers. (Newsweek covered the phenomenon here.)
Doctors like the idea because they can avoid the frustrations and loss of income that come from dealing with insurance programs (private or public). The more popular a physician’s practice, the more attractive they will find “concierge medicine.” (There are descriptions of the concept from a doctor’s perspective here and here.)
From an investment point of view, the idea’s almost irresistible. Even if nothing changes politically, many of the well-to-do will pay to escape the grind of medical management – and to receive amenities like prompt appointments, less wait time in the office, and even house calls.
If reform does kick in, doctors who accept insurance will be even more burdened than before. That means longer wait times, less face time with the doctor, and other issues. And if single-payer care ever becomes reality, concierge medicine will explode.
Some policy advocates may have a problem with concierge medicine, since it exacerbates the two-tiered system. Still, many socialized medicine systems (like the U.K’s) allow private health plans. And for those doctors who have the clout, it’s a very attractive alternative to the paperwork, frustrations, and income reduction that comes with insurance.
It’s also one of the few reform-proof investment opportunities in healthcare delivery, which should attract venture capital. This means that, like it or not, there is likely to be a future for concierge medicine.