The Benefits of Concierge Medicine in the age of COVID-19

Concierge medicine allows patients to build strong relationships with their doctor through extended visits and more personalized care. Having a doctor who truly knows you, and who you can call on when you need them may have seemed like a luxury in the past. With the COVID-19 pandemic having become a ‘normal’ part of our lives, it has never been more important for patients to have easy access to trusted care when they need it the most. 

Across the country, medical facilities and doctors offices are playing catch-up in order to bring patients back up to date on routine checkups and preventive screening.  During the peak of the pandemic, healthcare providers were spread thin with regard to time and resources. In addition, patients were less likely to go for routine medical services due to social distancing, quarantine and isolation requirements. As a result, there is still a backlog of patients that are behind on basic medical care including sick visits, regular annual checkups, and preventive screenings. Healthcare practices are continuously making adjustments in order to ensure that these patient’s needs are being met.  Implementation of new technologies in the healthcare systems such as telemedicine have helped but that’s not enough. Clearly the pandemic has demonstrated that concierge medical practices, as early adopters of telemedicine technology and as providers that eliminate barriers to communication, are able to meet patients’ needs in a more efficient manner. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the benefits of having a personalized relationship with your physician.  During a crisis such as the pandemic, research has shown that concierge medicine reduces hospitalization rates and produces better clinical outcomes.

 

Benefits of Concierge Medicine during the age of COVID-19

 Fewer Patients, Longer Appointment Times

According to the American Academy of Private Physicians (AAPP), estimates have shown that a traditional primary care physician in the United States maintains between 2,000 – 4,000 patients. On a daily basis a GP sees 25 patients or more, giving approximately 15 minutes per patient. Practically speaking, this isn’t feasible with the given time constraints, patients queries are left unanswered, resulting in an unsatisfied patient experience. This is why concierge practices are different.

 In comparison, AAPP notes that since concierge practitioners have a smaller group of patients (around 600 patients) it allows them to dedicate more time to individual patients. This helps in establishing a rapport between the doctor and patients which goes much deeper than the normal screening or even a checkup routine.

 Avoid Crowded Areas

Nobody wants to spend time in a crowded wait room with the looming thought of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Even before the pandemic, concierge medical practices focused on keeping practice sizes small, eliminating the concept of a busy waiting room. 

 24/7 Access to your Physician

The data is clear that patients with multiple comorbid conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease or respiratory illness are at higher risk for complications associated with COVID-19 infections.  Having 24-7 access to your concierge provider will certainly be beneficial and likely improve overall clinical outcomes in these patients, as acute illness or worsening chronic conditions will be addressed more quickly and efficiently. In many cases clinical concerns can be answered by cell phone or telemedicine encounters, from the comfort of your own home.

Looking to Concierge Practices for a Solution

Based on the current interest and demand for concierge physicians, particularly during the pandemic and as we move out of the pandemic, we now know that concierge medical practices will continue to thrive long after the pandemic comes to an end.  It is clear that patients now see the value and benefits of this type of doctor-patient relationship and see concierge medicine as a solution to the limitations of the current state of medical care. To become part of our concierge practice and take full advantage of the benefits of concierge medicine in Atlanta, Georgia, book an online appointment for a consultation with our doctors at Buckhead Medicine. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more insightful updates and posts. 

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FAQ

What services are provided as a part of my annual fee?
  • Same-day or next business day appointments
  • Direct access to Dr. Espinosa via his personal cell phone after hours, weekends, and holidays
  • Minimal office wait times
  • Longer, more comprehensive appointments
  • House Calls (requires additional trip fee)
  • A strong focus on preventive medicine, long-term health and wellness
  • A personal professional relationship with your physician
What is the mission of Buckhead Medicine?

We strive to provide the highest quality medical care, emphasizing a comprehensive approach to prevention and disease management. We want patients to be completely satisfied with every aspect of their care.

Where is your office and are you on the medical staff of a local hospital?

Yes, Dr. Espinosa’s office is in Buckhead, a suburb of Atlanta. He is on the medical staff of Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia and Northside Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. If you require hospitalization, Dr. Espinosa will coordinate your patient care by working with the hospital based physicians. He will also make periodic hospital visits during your hospitalization.

Who will cover for you when you are not available?

On infrequent occasions when Dr. Espinosa is out of town or otherwise unavailable, he will have another qualified physician cover for him. Even while out of town, Dr. Espinosa will generally be available by phone to his patients and to his covering physicians. For practical reasons, we reserve the right to designate another qualified physician to perform any and all services should the need arise.

Do you accept insurance?

Commercial Insurance and Medicare:
Buckhead Medicine is an In-Network provider for Blue Cross Blue Shield PPO, Aetna, Coventry, Humana, Cigna, Tricare and United Healthcare. Our practice fully participates in the Medicare program. Buckhead Medicine accepts all other insurance as an Out-of-Network provider. We, however, do not participate in the Medicaid program. Regardless of your plan, we will bill your insurance for all covered services. It is our intention that no insurance-covered medical services are included in your annual fee.

HMO and Medicare HMO:
We do not participate in HMO programs. As such, HMO patients will not be able to join the practice until they transition to either a PPO or traditional Medicare plan.

Do I still need insurance if I enroll with you?

Yes. Personalized medical practices do not take the place of general health insurance coverage. Buckhead Medicine is a primary care medical practice, not a health insurance program. You are advised to continue your PPO, Medicare or other insurance program. If you are an uninsured individual and desire to enroll in the practice, we will provide you with a discounted fee schedule for office visits, tests and procedures.

What if I don't have health insurance?

For uninsured patients, Buckhead Medicine offers an uninsured patient plan. Although this plan is not insurance, it does cover for all clinic visits and any labs or tests that are performed in our office. In many cases this plan provides for significant cost savings to uninsured individuals. Please contact our office for additional details on this plan.

Will my insurance still be billed for my office visits?

Yes, we will bill your insurance company directly. The annual fee does not cover costs for regular exams or testing conducted inside or outside of the clinic. These costs are billed to your insurance provider in the same manner that traditional practices bill insurers.

Is there a co-payment?

If you have commercial insurance, we will collect the co-payment at the time of service. Medicare patients usually do not require a co-payment.

Do you bill Medicare for the annual fee?

No. The annual fee is not covered by Medicare. The fee only includes services that are not covered by Medicare and, as such, cannot be paid for or reimbursed by Medicare. We will bill Medicare for your sick visits and for any additional services performed at this practice that are covered by Medicare.

Will my commercial insurance reimburse my annual fee?

No, commercial insurance does not typically reimburse for the annual fee. However, some Flexible Spending Account and Health Savings Account plans may pay for all or part of the annual fee. In addition, some insurance plans allow the concierge fee to apply towards the annual deductible. Members are advised to consult their human resources representative at their place of employment.

Is the annual fee tax deductible?

In many cases the annual fee is a tax deductible healthcare expense. Patients are advised to consult with their tax consultant to clarify qualification in their particular circumstance.

Does the annual fee cover lab, x-ray, specialist fees and hospitalization?

Services such as labs, x-ray, specialty visits or hospitalizations are covered based on coverage determined by your insurance plan.

Are there age limits?

Dr. Espinosa is an Internal Medicine physician. His specialty is Adult medicine. Dr. Espinosa is trained to manage acute and chronic medical illnesses among adults. As such, the practice is limited to patients 17 years of age and older.

What if I have an emergency?

If you have a life threatening emergency, call 911 immediately. After you call 911, please call Dr. Espinosa. He will contact the hospital and notify the emergency room of your tentative arrival. In addition, Dr. Espinosa will provide the emergency room with pertinent medical history information

How far in advance do I need to book an appointment?

Dr. Espinosa is committed to providing his patients with easy access to care. All urgent visits will be accommodated either same day or next day, placing the greatest priority on the sickest patients. Annual physical exams will be booked 1 to 2 weeks in advance.

What do I do if I become ill while traveling or away on an extended vacation?

Call 911 if you have a life threatening emergency. Then call Dr. Espinosa. Call Dr. Espinosa first if the problem is minor. With the exception of a few controlled substances, most prescriptions can be ordered anywhere in the country. If necessary, it may be possible for Dr. Espinosa to find you a resource in your area. If you seek care at an emergency room or urgent care center out of our area, we request that you have the doctor seeing you call Dr. Espinosa for coordination. Dr. Espinosa will be readily available by phone for consultation with you and/or other health care personnel. If you should require hospitalization while away, at your request, Dr. Espinosa will establish phone communication with you and your attending physician(s) to ensure continuity of care.

Do you make house calls?

House calls will be available to Buckhead Medicine members, within a limited radius from the clinic. These will be done as deemed appropriate by Dr. Espinosa on a case-by-case basis. Home visits will be billed to your insurance provider similar to an office visit. A separate trip fee is required for house calls.

What if I need to see a specialist or a surgeon?

Of course, Buckhead Medicine patients are free to see any specialist they wish. We are available to help you decide what specialists to see and to coordinate such consultations. Patients may frequently request for “doctors in my area”, and we can accommodate this. We will ensure that the most appropriate resources are used, the earliest arrangements are made, and your applicable medical information is sent in advance of your specialist visit.

What about the cost of prescription medications?

The cost of prescription medications are the patient’s responsibility and in most cases should be covered by their insurance plans. We have expertise in assisting patients in purchasing medications in the most cost effective manner.

Will I be required to pay my annual fee even if I do not use your services?

Yes. Paying your annual fee allows you to be a member of the practice whether you are sick or well. We encourage our patients to utilize the amenities offered such as wellness consultations and emails for appropriate non-urgent health related questions, regardless of your state of health.

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