Concierge Medicine: The Doctor is in 1

You’ve heard the myth of the doctor who is reachable at any time. The one who knows patients and their families, their medical histories, their unique medical needs. The one who doesn’t throw prescriptions at isolated symptoms. The one who is attentive to individual needs and committed to preventive care.

Good news: this doctor exists! Welcome to the age of concierge medicine.

Concierge physicians provide personalized, accessible medical care to a select group of patients who pay premiums beyond what they pay for insurance, including co-pays and deductibles. And yes, they even make house calls. Though this type of boutique care is not an entirely new concept, the concierge practice has become more prevalent as the country’s system of healthcare has become more impersonal and difficult to maneuver than ever.

San Diego is home to a growing number of concierge physicians who have restructured their medical practices to meet the demands of patients who want access and time, and are willing to pay for it. Stuart Kipper, M.D., an internal medicine physician in Encinitas, has treated patients in North County San Diego for more than 25 years. In 1990, he founded Medical Group of North County (MGNC), which went on to become one of the largest private medical practices in the area.

Approximately 15 years ago, in response to patient requests for more individualized attention, Dr. Kipper added a concierge component to his own practice within the large group. In 2009, he left MGNC to dedicate himself fully to the personalized care of his patients, many of whom followed him to his new practice. “I felt it was time to leave because talking about money became a drag,” Dr. Kipper says. “Being a doctor had become more of a business than a commitment to patient care. The way I practice now allows us all to win.”

Dr. Kipper limits his patient base to no more than 400. This allows him to provide time, access, and follow-up, which are all important for making patients feel comfortable, earning him their trust. He limits the number of patient office visits to 10 to 14 per day so that he may spend at least half an hour with each patient, giving them his full attention. “I know them and they know me. That’s how you learn to trust someone.” And that trust and personal attention has saved lives.

James Betz, a businessman based in Las Vegas, has been a devoted patient of Dr. Kipper’s since the 1980s, following him from the large medical group to his small concierge practice. Betz believes that Dr. Kipper’s attention to his family history of prostate cancer led to his own early diagnosis from which he has made a full recovery. “Stuart is the epitome of what a concierge doctor should be. He really takes the time to get to know you and has a knack for being able to diagnose issues, even over the phone, because he listens.” Betz’s wife and children are also patients of Dr. Kipper’s.

Prospective patients begin with a consultation during which Dr. Kipper takes an extensive medical history. He explains how his office, which includes him and three medical assistants, handles everything from obtaining prior authorizations to coordinating specialist care to drawing blood for labs to accounting. Dr. Kipper’s goal and purpose is to make it as convenient and comfortable for patients to receive quality medical care as possible. After the initial visit, his office schedules follow-up visits so that prospective patients have time to consider whether this type of service suits their needs.

Dr. Kipper, a practicing Buddhist, is grateful for the opportunity to connect with his patients on a deeper level. “Currently, I am working with a family that is dealing with an elderly member who is dying. I spend about four hours a week with them, guiding them on a dignified death journey. The medical part is easy. It’s the emotional part – figuring out how I can incorporate what I know and can impart to help my patients as human beings that makes it worth it.”