By Rick Henderson, CPA, CFP®, AIF®
Healthcare in America is a topic that many people are concerned about today. Almost every day in the news, we hear about the problems of Obamacare, whether it is surging costs of health insurance premiums, increased deductibles and co-pays, health insurance companies pulling out of certain markets, or the repeated failed attempts to repeal or otherwise modify the program. Another thing we hear sometimes is that people age 65 and older have found it hard to find new primary care doctors because many doctors are not taking new Medicare patients.
Two Converging Trends
Fortunately, there are some very positive things occurring in healthcare today. We continue to see profound advances being made in medical science and technology in the treatment of illnesses and injuries, as well as in the areas of predictive medicine and the treatment and monitoring of chronic illnesses. There also is a less-noticed change going on, a paradigm shift, in the way that health care is being delivered in the United States. Increasing numbers of Americans are turning to concierge medicine for their medical care, desiring the benefits that stronger physician-patient relationships and an emphasis on better preventative care can provide.1 The convergence of advances in medical science and technology, and the shift in health care delivery towards concierge medicine, with its emphasis on prevention, has immense potential impact in helping people live longer and healthier lives. This convergence will also have an impact on people’s financial lives. As people live longer and healthier lives, their attitudes and needs regarding retirement will change, and the planning needed to financially support a longer and healthier life will likely change as well.
In addition to some of the things that many of us perceive as normal today, like minimally invasive surgery and transplants of organs or other body parts, there are many more innovative breakthroughs. Some examples are 3D printed body parts (www.organovo.com), cancer fingerprinting which can pinpoint whether a cancer is sensitive to a certain type of chemotherapy or may not respond to any chemotherapy, the bionic eye or retinal implant that helps certain people restore some level of vision (www.secondsight.com), and the drug, Sofosbuvir, which is a very effective treatment for Hepatitis C.
One of the most promising uses of technology is what some people refer to as the “Internet of DNA.” Right now, there are companies like Human Longevity Inc. (www.humanlongevity.com) that are sequencing their patients’ genome, building large databases with that information, and analyzing the cumulative data in order to find meaningful insights and discoveries to help their patients make decisions regarding new treatment options, personal health plans, and help live longer, healthier lives.
Personalized Delivery and a Focus on Prevention
The term “concierge medicine” is used to describe several different types of arrangements between a patient and a primary care physician. Concierge medicine almost always includes additional costs or fees on top of your current health insurance, diagnostic tests, and deductibles and co-pays. In almost all of these arrangements, there is a renewed focus on the patient-physician relationship. One of the most popular and well-known concierge medical networks in America is MDVIP (www.mdvip.com). Through MDVIP, you work with a local primary care physician who has limited their practice to 600 patients or less, and the annual fee per patient is about $1,800. Because their practices are limited to 600 patients, the physicians have more time to spend with their patients to address their needs.
Another example of concierge medicine is World Clinic (www.worldclinic.com). World Clinic is a globally connected 24/7 medical practice that provides virtual medical care for highly mobile and travelled people and their families, and was founded by Dr. Dan Carlin, a recognized leader in the use of mobile technology to deliver medical care. One of the unique things that I have learned about World Clinic is that they provide their patients a personally prescribed medical kit with different medicines for their patients to carry with them wherever they travel.
A Longer and Healthier Life
While certainly not for everyone, concierge medicine offers potential short-term benefits (more time available with the physician, ease of scheduling appointments, ease of access by phone, email, etc.) and potential long-term benefits (personalized health plans, focus on prevention, help in dealing with a serious or complex condition, longevity planning) for its’ patients. When combined with the rapid advances being made in medical science and technology, you have the potential to live a much longer and healthier life than you may have expected. So, if it is true that your health is one of your most precious assets, how will you use these two converging trends in healthcare to your best advantage?
1Colwell, Janet. “Concierge medicine becomes an option in reform era.” Medical Economics, UBM, August 10, 2016, http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/concierge-medicine-becomes-option-reform-era.