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Boutique Clinics Offer Alternative for Patients Who Pay

May 20, 2008 06:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Frustrated by the harried pace of most clinics and hospitals, some doctors and patients are opting for an alternative that offers better, but pricier, service.

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Some patients who feel like “they’re just a number in line at the butcher’s shop” when they go to the doctor are turning to concierge, or boutique, practices, reports Time magazine.

Boutique clinics charge patients an entry fee for care and limit the number of patients that they accept. They also offer extra fee-based services such as longer office visits and e-mail and cell phone availability.

Patients say that this alternative, also called the direct primary care model, creates shorter waits and more personalized attention, and doctors say that they appreciate the flexibility and fulfillment the arrangement offers.

Insurance companies reward doctors who see more patients in less time, affecting their ability to get to know their patients and make nuanced diagnoses. “Today, people who really want their doctors to get to know them have to pay for that investment of time,” writes Time magazine.

Some criticize the boutique system for being elitist, as it is only available to wealthier individuals.

“There’s something unseemly about doctors saying, ‘You know what, this system is so broken, the only way I can practice is to set up a cash-based practice and exempt myself.’ We need to fix the system,” says Arthur Caplan, a bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania.

But WebWeekly, a publication of Harvard Medical Community, reports that as the system evolves it holds some promise toward widening its customer base.

Headline Link: ‘Giving Patients the VIP Treatment’

Background: ‘A new brew in Seattle’

Opinion & Analysis: Boutique medicine ‘nothing new’

Reference: Health Web Guide

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