One Reason I Love the Membership Model

Did you know that many primary care offices have a rule that if a question takes more than five minutes to answer over the phone, the patient has to schedule an appointment.  Do you know why?  Because that is time a doctor is spending that he or she isn’t getting paid for.  In a medical office, the physician is the goose that lays the golden egg…if the time a physician spends isn’t being paid by someone, then the practice as a whole and everyone who works there is that much poorer for it.

Here’s a chart showing the average time a primary care doctor spends in an appointment with a patient:

From Medscape Survey of Family Physicians 2013

From Medscape Survey of Family Physicians 2013

I usually spend 10-15 minutes on the phone with a member.  If I worked in a normal office, that would be money down the drain.  With the membership model, I don’t have to think about it.  If it’s a question that can be answered over the phone, I answer it over the phone.  If I need to see someone in person, we schedule an appointment (30-60 minutes) instead.

This month I’m accepting Medicaid for all current patients who now qualify.  I was surprised to notice my mindset changing automatically.  Have a question that requires a long conversation?  Better come in for an appointment…the better to pay me for, my dear.  I HATE thinking that way about patient care.  That’s not what I’m here for.  Now, please don’t get apologetic about having Medicaid.  You are entitled to it and I am accepting it for current patients because I support the Medicaid expansion.  But please forgive me when I ask you to come in for an appointment to discuss something…Medicaid and other insurers don’t consider a phone call to be “billable time.”

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