ATLANTA - Does your doctor offer same-day appointments, priority treatments and home visits? A new trend called concierge medicine offers all that and personalized care, but it comes at a cost.
“I mean I’ve never had such good health care,” Lucinda Whitehead said.
Lucinda and Pat Whitehead started seeing Dr. Edward Espinosa, a concierge doctor, about five years ago.
“Our son found Dr. Espinosa and we had thought about a concierge doctor before but hadn’t really gone to investigate it,” Lucinda Whitehead said.
The retired couple wanted more face time with their physician.
“What it entails is more personalized care, more time,” Espinosa said.
Espinosa’s patients pay a separate fee, either monthly, quarterly or annually, in addition to the regular cost of their doctor’s appointment.
“We try to make it more affordable so we offer monthly membership fees as low as $100 a month,” Espinosa said.
Younger patients pay less. Older ones with more medical problems can pay up to $200 a month.
“It pays for itself,” Lucinda Whitehead said.
“You feel like it pays for itself?” Channel 2 anchor Jovita Moore asked.
“I do too,” Pat Whitehead said.
“I’m 76 and Pat is 82. And we have little stuff going on now that you didn’t have when you were 25. I’ve been sick where I would have paid him four times that for the care I got,” Lucinda Whitehead said.
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What are patients getting for their money?
“Same- or next-day appointments, always having access to me,” Espinosa said.
Patients of concierge doctors don’t spend much time in the waiting room. If their appointment is at 3 o’clock the doctor sees them right at 3 o’clock.
Even when he’s on vacation, patients can call Espinosa’s cellphone, text or email him.
“If I’m in Europe or if I’m in Mexico, wherever I might be, they’re able to reach me,” Espinosa said.
Espinosa visits his patients in the hospital to help coordinate their care with the hospitals’ doctors. He also makes house calls.
“But once I just couldn’t get out of bed. He he had an X-ray machine sent to me and I did have pneumonia,” Lucinda Whitehead said.
“We do home visits and so we’re out in the community and I’m carrying my little bag. And we have people come up to us and say, 'I cannot believe you’re doing this,'” Espinosa said.
Espinosa accepts insurance, but will see patients without it.
“And it is just a per visit fee on top of the membership fee,” Espinosa said.
He says that fee allows him to spend extra time with his patients.
“Most people want this level of service. This is the way health care used to be,” he said.
Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard says concierge medicine has a lot to offer, if you can afford it.
“People who have a lot of money want to have the same kind of personalized experience at the doctor as they have in everything else that money can buy. It is absolutely a part of our future,” Howard said.
“I’m dedicating my life to my patients. I value that relationship. I want them to be healthy,” Espinosa said.
He believes a good doctor-patient relationship can lead to better health.
“Ultimately, if you combine quality medical care with more personalized, better communication you can have better outcomes,” Espinosa said.
“It’s worth every penny; it really is,” Lucinda Whitehead said.
Espinosa said he currently has about 300 patients. He said once he reaches 400 patients, he plans to hire another doctor who will see the new patients.
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