What is a Membership Practice?
Physician practices described as “membership medicine,” are medical practices in which patients pay a monthly or annual retainer to their doctor or medical office for a contracted bundle of services. These practices, which are growing in numbers offer an alternative model for physicians who hope to spend less time on paperwork and more time with patients, and for patients who want their doctors to spend more time with them, addressing their health needs rather than completing paper work for insurance companies.
Benefits of Membership
Membership medicine is beneficial for the flexibility it affords in communicating with patients, because physicians no longer need to figure out how they’re going to bill for a visit. The relationship between the doctor and the patient is less defined by a visit, because the doctor has the freedom to communicate using technology—phone, e-mail, any of these things—rather than having to come in and see the doctor.
Consultations can take place over the phone if the patient doesn’t need to be physically examined, and patients can send the doctor messages, look at their records and lab results, and in some cases, pay bills online. The doctor can discuss lab results after the patient pulls them up on the practice portal, without the need to make an office visit.
In membership practice the doctor is far more accessible in person because the office visits last much longer, often as long as the patient needs.
One pernicious feature of medical care is that your doctor makes money when you get sick. In OUR practice, we want to keep you healthy, but we do not want to go out of business while keeping you healthy. If that happens, we both lose. Membership allows both the patient and the practice to win.
Why Doctors Choose Membership Practice
Often, doctors choose membership practice because of the increased paperwork load and less time with patients. Many doctors in conventional practice feel pressure to see more, and more patients. Many find that the pace of work is not sustainable. Some feel they cannot provide the care that they want to provide, are not able to spend time with patients, and do not have the time to properly dig into their patients’ problems to get at the root of their issues. Doctors often feel incentivized to do testing and referrals, not to spend time to get to the bottom of the problem.
With membership practice, doctors see fewer patients, which allows for more face-to-face time with patients, and more time to communicate with patients by phone or other means. This improves the practice-patient communication necessary to make care better. It makes the practice more accessible to patients and their families.
Why Patients Choose a Membership Practice
Some patients are finding the amount of time their primary care physicians have for them dwindling and look for other methods of healthcare delivery to increase the amount of one-on-one communication with their doctors. Many have turned to membership medicine to address these problems.
To gain this closer relationship and more time spent with their primary care doctor, patients pay an annual membership fee to be part of a membership medicine model. Doctors have fewer patients, but spend more time addressing medical concerns and preventing disease among their set of patients. More time is available on the telephone – not just with the doctor, but with other staff of the practice.
Studies of membership practices show that patients are satisfied with their care through this reimbursement model. In one poll, 98 percent stated that communication with their primary care doctors has been enhanced through their membership practice.
Why Consider a Membership Practice?
Traditional healthcare payment options pay for procedures instead of results. Physicians are penalized financially for spending more time with patients delivering thoughtful, whole person care. What this means for patients is that you may get a lot of tests, and end of on many medications without necessarily getting any better. Membership practice fixes this problem.
Health Care Costs and Savings
The U.S. allocates 3 percent of our healthcare spending to prevention, and yet 72 percent of diseases plaguing the country are preventable. Membership medicine is based on the principle that up-front investment in wellness will result in a reduction in acute healthcare episodes. Experts believe that, over time, membership medicine should reduce overall healthcare expenditure. The same principle applies in our practice. One of our services, in which we review and discontinue drugs we consider to be unnecessary is an example of how we directly reduce health care costs for patients, while reducing the potential for drug side effects or interactions (see below).
Why Membership Medicine is Growing
Membership medicine is growing, and this growth is being fueled by both physicians and patients. Physicians are fed up with assembly line medicine in which they get paid based on the number of patients they see per day. Doctors want to practice good medicine instead of fast medicine. Similarly, patients do not want to feel like a number. They want to lock into a close relationship with a trusted physician who will do what's right for them instead of what's right according to their insurance company.
Membership at Magnolia Health Care, Inc.
Magnolia Health Care offers a membership option to our primary care, internal medicine patients. Patients may choose the membership option for their usual care, especially if they have complex chronic illnesses for which a doctor’s close monitoring is essential for prolonged good health. Patients who feel they need more time than the usual 10 to 15 minutes time allotted for office visits may also sign up for membership.
There is a set of medical services at Magnolia Health Care, which are available only to patients who are practice members of Magnolia Health Care. These services include functional medicine, weight management, non-narcotic pain management, an auto-immune program, age management (anti-aging) medicine, polypharmacy program, and an Alzheimer’s Disease program. These services cover diseases that are often very difficult to treat using conventional medicine means, or diseases for which there are no approved successful treatments. The treatments employed at Magnolia Health Care for these conditions are treatments within the functional/integrative/naturopathic medicine fields of medicine, and employ nonconventional treatments, such as nutrition, herbs and supplementation, and lifestyle treatments to manage, and often reverse these diseases.
Prescription Drug Monitoring and Discontinuation
One feature of our membership practice, which Dr. Quaye is particularly proud of is our prescription drug monitoring and discontinuation (polypharmacy) program. In patients with multiple chronic illnesses, especially elderly patients, it is quite common to see patients on as many as twenty different prescriptions. This is known as polypharmacy, and experts caution against it for several reasons, including safety. As part of our membership program, we review our patients’ drugs and make recommendations on which ones could be discontinued safely. We do not unilaterally discontinue any medications that patients have been taking for a long time.
Specific Membership Services
- Functional Medicine
- Weight Management
- Non-narcotic Pain Management
- Auto-immune Program
- Age Management
- Alzheimer’s Disease Program