Direct Primary Care versus Concierge Medicine

The phrases Direct Primary Care and Concierge Medicine are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are distinct entities. 

The Concierge Medicine movement began around the year 2000 with doctors charging an access fee for their services while still billing insurance companies. The average membership cost for Concierge Medicine is roughly $2,000/year and up to $15,000/year. 

Contrast that with Direct Primary Care or DPC. The DPC movement began around 2010 with doctors like Garrison Bliss in Seattle and Josh Umbehr in Wichita among others. Memberships cost roughly $10 - $100/month. There is an emphasis in DPC on a monthly membership structure - members are not locked in for a 1 year commitment. 

In Concierge Medicine, the membership costs allows for access. Because the membership cost is relatively high, these types of practices attract the top 1% - 5% income earners. These high income earners are relatively price insensitive, so they are not as concerned about saving money on medications, labs or imaging. These patients are willing to pay for these ancillary services via their insurance even though the price may be inflated.

In Direct Primary Care, the membership includes more services. DPC doctors typically don't charge per visit fees and they try to move away from fee-for-service type transactions. Many ancillary services are included in DPC memberships, like EKGs, Spirometry, Wart Removal, etc... In addition, DPC docs get their patients wholesale medications, at-cost labs, and at-cost imaging services. 

Concierge Medicine clinics attract members via programs like "Executive Physicals" or "Executive Health". These are tailored to high-income earners like people in the "C-Suite", aka CEOs, COOs, an CFOs. 

Direct Primary Care doctors focus on health maintenance, wellness, and the bread and butter primary care services like preventive health, screening tests, chronic disease management, and acute care needs. 

Concierge Medicine practices often mandate that you carry a high-end insurance policy - these practices often bill their patients' insurance companies for routine visits or services. 

Direct Primary Care doctors do not bill insurance companies for the services they provide. That means that DPC doctors can take care of patients across a wide spectrum of coverage. For example, if you are uninsured, underinsured, or fully insured, you can be seen at Plum Health DPC. This is true for most DPC clinics. 

I put together a short video to emphasize some of these differences. The audio got a little out of sync near the end, so I'm sorry about that! I'll try to re-shoot it later this week!

- Dr. Paul with Plum Health