Arkansas Doctors Discover the Joys Of Concierge Care

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Apr. 21, 2014 12:00 am  

Concierge medicine has a reputation of being limited to wealthy patients, but personal physician and former emergency room doctor Amy Beard says, “My fees are less than some people’s cell phone bills.”  Dr. John Furlow says it's possible for a physician to survive on his own with a reduced patient load and no insurance to bill.  | (Photo of Beard by Jason Burt, photo of Furlow by Beth Hall)

Parents trying to get their children bathed and to bed can relate to Sarah Lewis’ dilemma.

Her 2-year-old son was playfully romping in the tub when he head-butted mom, splitting her lip open. It wasn’t the blood or pain that concerned Lewis so much as it was the potential headache of getting after-hours medical treatment.

The cut seemed serious enough for stitches but was a trip to the emergency room worth it? She had three children to get to bed and she and her husband had jobs the next morning and, well, who wants to spend two hours in a waiting room when the injury might not even need to be dressed?

Fortunately for Lewis, she didn’t have any stress about a busted lip. She called her personal physician, who looked at a texted picture of the injury and met Lewis at her office.

Forty-five minutes after her bouncing boy bonked her, Lewis was back at her Greenbrier home, two stitches in her lip, with her children to bed and relaxing in front of the television.

Lewis’ personal physician is Amy Beard, a former emergency room doctor who has gone into private practice. Not just any kind of private practice, though, because Beard is one of a handful of Arkansas doctors pursuing a new model of medicine commonly called concierge or direct primary care medicine.

Lewis and her family are Beard’s patients and pay a monthly fee for the doctor’s unlimited, 24/7 service. A child with a cough, a husband with a fever, a mom with a cut — Beard treats them all whenever the need arises.

“It has been an answer to prayer,” Lewis said. “She has saved us two ER visits. I would pick up cans on the side of the road to pay for it.”

Beard’s practice, Hippocrates Health & Wellness, doesn’t force patients to such drastic measures to make their payments. Beard charges $100 per month per adult, plus $30 per child, so a family of five can get unlimited primary care for $290 a month.

Tom Blue, the chief strategy officer of the American Academy of Private Physicians in Richmond, Va., told Arkansas Business that there are about 5,500 concierge doctors nationally and the practice is growing at a rate of 25 percent a year. The count is a well-educated guess, Blue said, because not every concierge-type doctor has to publicly announce or register his or her practice.

Blue said the concierge model is growing in popularity. In Richmond, the first doctor started in 2002 and now there are 28, Blue said.

Beard said she knows of five concierge doctors in Arkansas, and Blue said he would theorize there were a few more who haven’t gone public.



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