Concierge Medicine: A trend that’s arrived in northern Michigan?

Lots of one-on-one time and same-day visits are the promises concierge medicine docs say have personalized patient care.

So far, four area physicians have affiliated with MDVIP, a Boca Raton, Florida-based primary care concierge service that links affiliated physicians in a network spread across the country.

To join, patients pay $1,650 for an annual membership. Practices are limited to 600 patients or fewer, about half of traditional fee for service, a small office of which would typically have about 1,500 to 2,500 patients.

Patients continue to carry private insurance and/or Medicare, and are referred to specialty care as in any other practice setting. Each affiliated medical office is run independently by each physician.

Founded in 2000, MDVIP operates a network of affiliated physicians who continue to operate their own individual practices. The patient fee covers an annual wellness service, 24/7 physician access, same day or next day appointments, an extensive electronic portal for medical information, patient resources, and access to care throughout the MDVIP network.

“[MDVIP] has allowed me to deliver more personalized healthcare to my patients … and to develop a deeper doctor-patient relationship,” said Thomas Lammy, MD, an affiliate physician practicing in Suttons Bay. Dr. Lammy has practiced internal medicine for 32 years, and has been in practice with Phillip Siemer, MD, in Suttons Bay since 1992.

Dr. Siemer was the first Grand Traverse area physician to affiliate with MDVIP, joining in 2011. Dr. Lammy joined in 2015, followed by Douglas Coles, MD in Frankfort. The only other northern physician is Harbor Springs’ Wendy Walker, MD, who joined in June 2017. There are 15 others in southwest and southeast Michigan.

According to Nancy Udell, director of media relations, MDVIP has about 1,000 affiliated primary care physicians in 45 states and the District of Columbia. The first Michigan physician joined in 2008, with the number of Michigan affiliated physicians growing to 19 during the past 10 years. She said she anticipates growth to continue at a similar steady pace in the years ahead.

From the business perspective, the membership model offers ability to plan a budget and operations without the uncertainty of funding and changing reimbursement levels for Medicare and third party payers.

It also allows prioritizing prevention and detection, which results is long term savings in health care costs.

“The smaller clientele allows real time availability in the office instead of being overrun by schedules that are three weeks out,” Dr. Lammy said. “I’m able to see patients the same day … and can be their physician patient advocate all the time.”

Dr. Lammy noted time with patients was lengthier than a traditional setting. Office visits range from a minimum of 30 minutes up to an hour and a half. In addition, physicians offer 24/7 cell phone coverage for their patients, as well as cross coverage among the Grand Traverse area physicians if one needs to go out of town and a patient needs to be seen locally.

One benefit in particular is the MDVIP Wellness Program, Udell said.

“Patients receive an annual comprehensive, prevention and wellness program that lasts [up to] two hours,” she said. “[It] focuses on important health and wellness areas including heart health, emotional well-being, diabetes risk, respiratory health, quality of sleep, hearing and vision, sexual health, nutritional assessment, weight management, bone health, risk factor analysis and face-to-face counseling with your doctor to develop a personalized wellness plan … to be implemented throughout the year.”

Another benefit is access into the full MDVIP provider network. If a patient is traveling and becomes ill or needs to see a physician, they can contact the nearest MDVIP-affiliated office and be seen the same or next day.

Adult children ages 16-26 can be seen without the annual membership fee.

Both patient satisfaction and yearly renewal rates exceed 90 percent nationally, according to Udell. Dr. Lammy says he has a 98 percent local retention rate with MDVIP.

“Patients have really enjoyed this,” he said. “Many [have said] they appreciate the time we have together … we’re able to solve their complaints. That’s a real comfort to them.”