For a fee, patients can enjoy care from a "concierge" doctor -, GA News Weather & Sports

For a fee, patients can enjoy care from a "concierge" doctor

Source: WBRC video Source: WBRC video

Going to a boutique doctor means no wait times, day-of appointments and practically 24-7 access to a doctor.

Dr. Rob Spiegel runs a boutique office in Birmingham. Spiegel says 15 years ago he started his medical career in a hospital but after about a decade he was ready for a change. He sought advice from fellow doctors who were already running their own private practice.

"They were all talking about how rushed their days are, how much they don't have time to spend with patients," explained Spiegel.

Spiegel says it's a big issue on both ends of the healthcare spectrum.

"Everyone feels it's too rushed," he said.

He opted for a non-traditional practice. He now runs a boutique, or concierge, medicine office.

"The biggest difference is the number of patients a doctor has. A traditional doctor may see a about 3,000 to 5,000 a year. Whereas in a traditional concierge practice, it caps at about 600," he said.

Over the last decade there's been a steady rise in doctors who turn to concierge medicine. According to the American Academy of Private Physicians, there are more than 4,400 of them in the United States.

The perks each one offers varies from practice to practice but the concept centers on convenience for patients and more face time with doctors.

"The patients have 30-45 minute appointments. No matter which concierge practice you go to that's fairly the standard. Same day next day appointments are fairly standard," added Spiegel.

The extra attention from a doctor comes at a cost. According to AARP, an annual fee for a boutique doctor's office will range from a few hundred dollars to up to $15,000. Spiegel says the yearly fee at his office is there to cover the cost of care insurance doesn't. For example, he uses telemedicine for many of his patients.

"I have my patients just check their blood pressures at home, and call them to me, fax them to me, use a secure email and send them to me. And we can talk by phone," explained Spiegel.

According to Spiegel, critics of concierge medicine say the system is already squeezed for doctors and too many "boutique doctors" will only add to that squeeze.

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