20 years of Concierge Medicine  - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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20 years of Concierge Medicine 

20 years of Concierge Medicine 

An alternative health care model to traditional primary care  

2022 marked the 20th anniversary of concierge health care in Greater Tampa Bay. Some may have a passing familiarity with the term, but those who have not specifically researched it might be unaware of what exactly concierge health care is and who can benefit from it.  

Concierge health care, or concierge medicine, is a membership-based primary health care model. Patients pay a monthly or annual fee in exchange for more individualized care than a traditional health care practice. The patient load is significantly less at concierge-style practices, allowing physicians to spend more time with each patient on preventative care services and wellness programs. It is important to note that the concierge membership model is not a form of health insurance, nor does it replace it.  

History and growth of concierge medicine 

The concept of concierge medicine was started by a physician in Seattle in the late 1990s, designed as an alternative to high-volume, managed care driven health care. Shortly thereafter, the management company MDVIP was formed as a national network of primary care doctors that helps physicians transition from their existing high-volume practices into a low-volume concierge model. Initially, the growth was slow and by 2002, there were still no more than 50 practices in the country. 

Greater Tampa Bay was quick to jump on the rise of concierge medicine, largely due to Dr. Michael O’Neal of the concierge health care practice Cooperative Med in Greater Tampa Bay.  

Around that time in the early 2000s, Dr. O’Neal and a colleague collaborated to start the first concierge medicine practice in GTB. It was also the first concierge practice ever started in the U.S. from scratch — the first non-transition concierge medical practice. This meant that they came straight out of residency having no patients and no money, whereas almost all practices are transitioned practices. 

“Basically, there’s an existing population of patients that numbers in the thousands that a physician can market internally to and then transition down to a concierge practice,” Dr. O’Neal said. 

The sluggish growth in concierge medicine practices continued until about 2010, when it increased exponentially, Dr. O’Neal said. From inception in the late 1990s through the 2000s, the growth rate was very slow. It went up substantially in 2010, and there was also a new dialect of membership medicine that was introduced a few years ago known as direct primary care. 

When the direct primary care is combined with the concierge practices, while difficult to estimate the exact number of practices in the U.S., Dr. O’Neal said that they could number up to 10,000 or more. The model is considerably more prevalent today than even just 10 years ago. 

It has also taken hold in GTB, where there is now an abundance of options for patients interested in seeking out concierge health care.   

Lower patient volume, more individualized care 

In concierge medicine, doctors accept a much lower patient load compared to the traditional primary care model, allowing a more individualized health care option for patients. Most concierge medicine practices typically accept somewhere between 500 and 750 patients, compared to the thousands seen in a traditional practice. Dr. O’Neal sets his patient cap at 600. Each patient pays a monthly or annual fee.  

“In turn, the low-volume environment allows the patient to receive a higher level of service and personalized care compared to a traditional model,” said Dr. O’Neal.  

He said the biggest limiting factor for this health care model is the patient cap, which is crucial to maintaining the integrity of the practice. The higher that number increases, the more it dilutes the level of service and care that can be provided to patients.  

“I held myself to very high expectations and I have tremendous respect for my profession,” Dr. O’Neal said. “I honestly felt I couldn’t be as valuable to my patients in a high-volume environment.” 

Benefits of concierge medicine 

The benefits of concierge medicine vary widely and depend on the individual needs of the patient. Advantages include the convenience factor of shorter waiting times, better access to care or prioritization of preventive health care strategies. 

Dr. O’Neal believes that patients with medically complex cases are the ones who benefit the most from this type of practice. These are patients that have the most need or have unmet health care needs and expectations in high-volume primary care practices.  

A concierge-style model allows the physician to devote more time and energy to these complex patients. The more manageable environment allows the physician to be a better diagnostician for their patients as well. The concierge model also provides opportunities for home visits, direct physician access and extended physician times.  

Dr. O’Neal also tries to give away at least 5% of care for free. Because of where his business is now, he is able to subsidize the cost of some low-income patients’ fees.  

Most concierge medicine providers in GTB offer a couple of membership fee options at different pricing levels for patients including individual and group plans. Some also offer membership-based employee health care plans.    

See Also

Concierge health care providers in Greater Tampa Bay 

Bay Area Modern Medical Center  

  • 3644 Henderson Blvd., Suite B, Tampa 
  • 844-977-3477 
  • bammc.com/  

Cooperative Med 

Dr. Now 

Echelon-Health Concierge Medicine 

Griffin Concierge Medical   

Insight Life Care 

McGrogan Concierge Medical 

Tampa Bay Concierge Doctor 

By Colin McCandless.

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