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Membership Medicine: Why Health Systems Must Take Heed of this Model to Evolve Primary Care Strategy


Sponsored Content

Membership medicine offers a way to meet consumer expectations, and the model offers substantial financial and competitive advantages.

Sponsored by Castle Connolly Private Health Partners

Primary care is at a tipping point.

More nontraditional rivals are entering the market. Physicians are in short supply, and many are burned out and considering leaving the profession.

At the same time, patients want more from their healthcare experience. They are frustrated with the difficulty of finding primary care physicians and scheduling appointments. When they see their doctor, their appointment doesn’t last long: The average primary care exam is 18 minutes, according to a study published in Medical Care

Patients want to get appointments quickly, and when they see a doctor, they don’t want to feel rushed. They want to ask all their questions and know they are being heard. And they’d like a relationship with their physician that leads to a healthier, happier life.

Health systems need a new strategy for primary care.

Enter membership model medicine, a new approach to healthcare delivery. Also called concierge medicine, it involves patients paying a monthly or annual membership fee for enhanced services, personalized care, and direct connectivity to their physician.

Membership model medicine offers a way to meet consumer expectations. These models offer same-day or next-day appointments, extended patient visits, and 24/7 direct connectivity to doctors.

The membership model also addresses the needs of doctors. In this model, physicians have a smaller group of patients. They can spend more time with each patient. When physicians have a more manageable workload, they are less likely to walk away.

As shown in the figure below, the membership medicine model provides advantages for a health system’s patients and providers, while improving the organization’s financials.

Figure 1: Overview, Membership Medicine Model Value to Health Systems

PATIENTS: Convenience, Experience, and Differentiated Enhanced Services

With membership model medicine, the physician-patient relationship is different.

It centers on preventive care, the optimization of the patient’s health and well-being, and the doctor as a trusted advisor. It’s a model that helps primary care deliver on its promises.

Patients are craving more time with their doctor.

According to a 2020 Deloitte survey, patients say their top priority is the relationship they have with their physician. When asked about their ideal healthcare experience, 42 percent said the most important factor was a provider who spends time with them and doesn't rush through the exam.

Some health systems may aim to improve the patient experience by building a state-of-the-art facility or investing in an expensive digital health platform. But as long as doctors are overbooked, the connectivity issues remain.

The membership model provides enhanced services that can create a differentiator to attract patients. For example, Castle Connolly Private Health Partners’ membership platform offers patients health coaching, exclusive health-related content, and discounts from partner businesses through its wellness program, SENS (Sleep, Exercise, Nutrition, and Stress Management).

PROVIDERS: Retention and Recruitment of High-Valued Physicians

Membership model medicine takes the administrative weight off doctors, allowing them to practice at the top of their license and giving them more time to do what they do best – caring for patients.

With a smaller patient panel, physicians have a more manageable workload — and that means increased career longevity. They also enjoy more professional fulfillment: 96 percent report career satisfaction, according to a study from Grand View Research.

With some membership medicine platforms, doctors may have additional perks. At Castle Connolly Private Health Partners, health coaches collaborate with their physician partners, acting as an extension of their team. These coaches can educate patients on adopting healthy habits and help them set and achieve wellness goals. This gives doctors more time to focus on building a relationship with their patients.

Physicians enjoy financial benefits in membership medicine. According to a study from Grand View Research, 24 percent of membership-based doctors saw an increase in income in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, while 72 percent of their peers in a traditional model reported a decrease in income in 2020.

Given the career satisfaction driven by a balanced workload, more time spent caring for patients, and greater financial rewards, membership model medicine is a vehicle to retain high-valued physicians, who may be burned out or pondering retirement. The membership model offers appealing advantages to recruit the next generation of providers for the system.

As the demand for primary care continues to exceed the supply, recruitment and retention of primary care providers will remain a top priority for health systems.

FINANCIALS: Driving revenue and increasing network integrity

Membership medicine offers immense value to health systems that are committed to providing high-quality healthcare services. A high-margin service line enables health systems to boost revenue. As a standalone service, practices often see profit margins of 60 to 70 percent. Profits can be used to invest in new technology, provide financial assistance, or fund special projects that support their mission.

Furthermore, membership-based programs promote “network integrity” — patients who remain within a particular health system as they need imaging, surgery, or any other service.

In a traditional model, patients who need a specialist often get lost in the system. With membership medicine programs, the physician or member advisor can help coordinate appointments, make follow-up calls, and provide support throughout the process. This helps ensure that patients get the care they need — and that they don’t take their business elsewhere.

MARKET: High Growth Market with a Target Population Base

With the popularity of subscription services such as Hulu and Netflix, consumers have grown accustomed to the concept of membership payments. According to a 2022 survey, consumers spend an average of $219 per month on subscription / membership services.

The same is true in healthcare.Membership-based programs have been gaining traction in the U.S. The market is expected to grow 10.3 percent annually through 2030, according to a study from Grand View Research.

Many patients and physicians want to move away from the transactional relationship that dominates traditional healthcare — an impersonal “fee for service” model.

CONCLUSION: Value to a Health System's Patients, Providers, Financials, and Market

Subscription medicine offers significant benefits to health systems, physicians, and the patients they serve.

“If the doctor is happy, engaged, and less stressed, patients will feel the same,” says Stephen Schneider, a membership-based doctor who partners with Castle Connolly Private Health Partners. “It is a win-win model for the practice of medicine built upon mutual trust and respect.”

Castle Connolly Private Health Partners (CCPHP) collaborates with and supports exceptional physicians to deliver an unrivaled experience of comprehensive, collaborative, and attentive care for a preventative approach on health and optimal wellbeing for Members. Learn more at ccphp.net

About the author

Alfredo Fernandez-Concha is the EVP of Partnership Strategy and Growth at Castle Connolly Private Health Partners, LLC.

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