Cash-only patients may benefit some doctors, but...

As it appears the trend of accepting cash-only patients may benefit some doctors, however it causes disruption elsewhere in the market.

A trend that’s becoming more and more significant in healthcare is the movement of providers dropping from the roles of managed care and taking only cash-paying patients. According to experts, cash-only practices are a workable business model when done the right way - however it can be disruptive to others in the market.

Cash-only patients may benefit some doctors, but...

According to a 2008 report from the Center for Studying Health System Change, approximately 12.4% of physicians no longer accept insurance in the practice.

As reported by Daniel Goldberg, president of Free Market Health Group, primary care providers have been moving to a concierge, cash-only practice traditionally; however what appears to be happening at the moment is a movement for specialists to opt out of the managed care system as well. The changes to cash-only include lowered reimbursements, billing and collection challenges as well as bureaucracy.

According to Jennifer Searfoss, CEO of Searfoss Consulting Group, there are certain elements needed in order to make cash-only practices successful. Of course, marketing is essential. When it comes to physicians, understanding their market and disclosing their services to the correct patient population is of great importance.

As far as the practices go, they also have to be competitive in terms of cost and quality with their peers. As it appears, many patients of cash-only practices are those with high-deductible plans or self-funded employer groups - both are searching for low-cost, high-quality care.

Apparently there’s one successful physician in Austin who doesn’t take insurance and has no office staff. And, as he was able to cut so many costs, he offers office visits for $30.

Another important factor is transparency.

“Those that want to do it without being transparent likely won’t work,” added Searfoss. “They have to identify episodes of care and what the rate is going to be. People are armed with quality, patient satisfaction and cost data; what we have now are educated consumers, they are no longer patients.”

Probably the most valuable concept that can make or break these practices is the expectations of the physicians. According to Searfoss, one group of physicians that made the move to a cash-only practice has reduced their patient panel from 8,000 to 1,000.

Also, one of the doctors stated that he no longer considers himself only a doctor, but acts as social worker as well, dealing with patients’ mental health issues, divorce and family troubles.

So, what do you think about doctors accepting cash-only patients? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.


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