Study: Direct Primary Care and Concierge Care Different in More Ways Than One
Last month the Show-Me Institute released our paper on direct primary care, a patient-centric physician practice model that generally cuts out insurance middlemen. I say "generally" because colloquially, both patients and doctors sometimes use the words "direct primary care" and "concierge care" interchangeably, even though there are important differences between the practice models. To clarify: concierge care doctors typically bill insurance for their services, whereas "pure" direct primary care providers typically do not.
But the difference between concierge and direct primary care isn't just academic; the terms also appear to be related to the price of the services rendered by these nontraditional physician practices. According to a study by Phillip Eskew and Kathleen Klink published this month in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, practices that simply self-describe as a concierge service are more than twice as expensive as direct primary care on a monthly basis.
We found the public perception of the term concierge as having higher prices holds true. Self-described DPC practices charged a lower average monthly fee ($77.38) than DPC practices that self-described as concierge ($182.76). Concierge practices such as MDVIP and MD2 have listed average periodic (monthly) fees of $137.50 and $2083.33, respectively; these periodic fees are billed in addition to standard fee-for-service office visit and procedural charges that would be encountered in any traditional medical practice.
In other words, while they sometimes use these terms interchangeably (and for understandable reasons given their similarities), both doctors and patients should be mindful that these models differ in very important ways, and that pricing is perhaps the most important difference. Making that fact clear is especially important for patients seeking cost-effective treatment plans with direct primary care physicians—because in the process of trying to find one, they could balk at the price tag they might find if they're only looking at "concierge" practices.