VIP at your MD

Concierge medical practice concept succeeds in Omaha

Larry Kavich does not regret spending an extra $4,000 to be a part of what could be the evolution of primary healthcare. “Hey, a Corvette is not for everyone,” says Kavich, a 65-year-old Omahan and owner of All Makes Office Equipment. “But I’ve yet to find myself uncomfortable with the extravagance of this purchase.” Kavich’s Corvette, in this instance, is Dr. Joel Bessmer, a primary care physician who is among a growing number of providers charging annual fees to patients, with patients in return receiving more time and attention. Bessmer’s resume includes positions as associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, assistant director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program and medical director of the UNMC Physicians Turner Park Clinic. He was recognized on last year’s list of Best Doctors in America. Bessmer’s “concierge” medical practice is called Members.MD, and it’s the first of its kind in the Omaha area. “This is not a case of paying extra for better; it’s more likely a case of paying extra for adequate,” Bessmer says. “Primary care is broken.” Doctors are typically paid per procedure, and primary care doctors perform relatively few procedures, Bessmer says. To generate enough income, Bessmer estimates most primary care physicians treat as many as 2,000 patients, allotting about eight minutes for each examination. In this new model, Bessmer intends to see no more than 300 patients, spending no less than 30 minutes per visit. Rather than accept traditional fee-for-service reimbursement, Members.MD physicians require up-front service charges for future health care needs. In the eight months since its launch, over 100 patients have entrusted their care to Members.MD, whose chairman is former Burger King franchise owner Mike Simmonds, a 2009 inductee into the Omaha Business Hall of Fame. Patients who visit Bessmer’s office at 105 S. 90th St. pay $2,500 per year for “personal care” or $4,000 for “concierge care,” which provides in-home visits and care oversight when a patient must turn to a specialist or emergency care. Other perks include special arrangements for in-home nursing, physical and occupational therapy, care oversight for rehabilitation, nursing home or hospice services, arrangement and scheduling of outside referrals and diagnostic testing services including special transportation, access to a national concierge doctor network and medical and security service coverage for international travel. Bessmer believes this business model is a glimpse of the future. According to researchers at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, 756 physicians across the U.S. have begun to practice “concierge” medicine. “Do you know what percentage of the 39 or so thousand medical school grads choose primary care each year?” Bessmer says. “Less than 2 percent. This is about developing a model that makes primary care attractive again for the benefit of both the patient and the physician.”

posted at 12:08 pm
on Friday, November 05th, 2010

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