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)

Beard said more office personnel means more patients are needed to justify and pay for them. The bare-bones operation — Beard or her husband-office manager answers the phone — means almost no overhead or superfluous expense.

“If you cut out the behind-the-scenes documentation, the doctor can spend more time with patients without the headaches,” said Furlow, whose patient list is approaching 500. “There’s no insurance to file. Direct primary care gets away from insurance that is expensive.”

Mark Williams of Your Personal MD of Mountain Home said concierge physicians can drastically improve a patient’s health because they have the time to give a thorough examination. Williams, who used to work in a clinic before going solo in 2010, said the current medicine model is like an assembly line, where doctors can see patients for just a handful of minutes.

Many times, patients are seen by a nurse practitioner rather than a doctor, Williams said.

“It was a cattle farm, and I do personalized care,” Williams said. “Thank goodness I’m not in the rat race.”

Williams said concierge care is focused on the patient, not the insurance company or the doctor’s overhead.

“I went into medicine to spend time with my patients,” said Williams, who said he had about 175 patients. “I was serving the insurance company’s needs instead of my patients’.”

All three personal physicians said giving patients more attention and personalized care is actually a money saver. Instead of treating whatever symptom is presented during a two-minute consultation, Williams said, a one- to- two-hour visit can help determine how to treat the underlying root problem.

“Most people tell me that’s the kind of doctor they want,” Furlow said. “It has been an absolute joy to practice medicine. Patients want information. It goes back to when your doctor was your doctor, and he took care of you.”

Furlow said several of his friends in the medical community have reached out to him to find out how he is doing — “They call me and say, “Hey, let’s get lunch,’” Furlow said — and Beard is looking to expand her office with another doctor to handle the increase in patients she is expecting. Williams wants to open branch offices of his corporation in other regions of the state.

“It’s going to be the wave of the future,” Williams said. “Once a patient gets a taste of this, they’re never going back. It’s a totally different type of medicine.”

All three doctors said they have made house calls as part of their service and each routinely receives phone calls and text messages from patients with health questions. Beard said she made a home visit because a patient was regularly complaining about allergies and other symptoms, and that home visit helped solved the question of what was causing the problem.



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