What is a membership practice?
A membership practice means I will accept a smaller number of patients so that I can focus more attention and care on you. Over the past 7 years, I have had the same patient numbers. However, with healthcare changes, the cost to provide care and the time it takes has increased. In order to keep up with the costs to keep the practice open, I would need to see more patients each day in smaller time slots. That’s not how I want to practice medicine- rushing through, getting behind, and still having piles of paperwork at the end of the day.
I don’t feel I have enough time and focus as I did in the past. I want to get back to how it was a few years ago. I want to be able to communicate and coordinate your care more effectively, whether that be when you are in the hospital, or at specialists offices, or on the road traveling. Same day and next day appointments will be available, as well as access to JoAnna and I via our cellphones. We will also be utilizing email, texting, and video conferencing for visits, if patients prefer.
Will this cost more?
Possibly, but not necessarily. At first I know it seems like a lot. But, for some, in the end it will cost less overall. There are many times that issues can be handled on the portal, or over the phone, which ends up reducing copays and out of pocket costs, but the current healthcare system does not allow for that to easily happen. I truly feel most people will realize the benefit of higher levels of service with overall savings and less out of pocket costs.
Dr. Chilek already does these things that membership practices do – why do we have to pay for them now?
I started the annual fee three years ago in order to help with the cost of technology and to try not to have to see more and more patients to cover expenses. However, it’s just not possible anymore. The costs of running a small practice are rising, and insurance reimbursement is going down. 51% of family practice offices had to take out a loan last year to help with expenses. It was no different for me, or my partners here. My partners chose to increase their annual fee and see more patients in a day, in shorter time slots. My personal choice was to either do the same, stop being a doctor in a small clinic, or give patients the chance to pay for extra services, more focus, and better care coordination. I chose to practice medicine the way I want to on my terms – not the insurance company or healthcare industry’s terms.
I remember the same initial reactions with the original fee three years ago – confusion, anger, disappointment. But, patients realized the benefits over time. I have tried to keep my schedule on time and respect your time as well. I have tried to provide thorough care without the hurry. I have tried to respond to questions and refills the same day, and allow patients to schedule the same day or next day for appointments. Those are the conveniences that get sacrificed in healthcare today. But, they don’t have to be…
When will this start?
April 2012 is the first month of the new membership practice. I will continue seeing patients as usual until then. After April, I will allow 30 minute and 1 hour time slots in general, with larger blocks available if needed.
I only come to the doctor once or twice a year, why should I do this?
Most patients only come when they are sick or have a problem. Patients in their 30’s and 40’s don’t realize that those are the key decades to start preventing diseases that set in and cause problems in their 50’s and 60’s. There is a lot to be done when you are younger in order to be healthy and feeling great when you are older. Also, some diseases have no age limits. For instance, cancer is one of the toughest battles and it can start young.
Also, many people don’t come to the doctor because it is expensive, the wait is usually long, you have to take time out of work, and the issue may not seem like a big deal. That’s not how healthcare should be- I want to make it easier to get your questions answered and make you feel welcome to engage in your health. No question is a stupid question. And you should be able to ask your doctor anything at anytime and get a response in a timely manner.
Is Dr. McWilliams doing this?
No, he has decided to raise his smaller annual fee and continue seeing more patients in smaller time slots. He is still my partner, and we will continue to support each other fully. Technology affords the ability for me to communicate with my patients wherever I am, for the most part, but if I am unavailable and a patient needs to be examined, he will see my patients in the office if needed.
Are you taking insurance plans?
Yes, I will continue to bill your insurance plan for the services provided and will accept almost any insurance plan you have.
Are you taking medicare?
YES! Even if the proposed 30% cut for March goes through, I will continue seeing Medicare patients in my membership practice.
What if I don’t have insurance and pay cash for my healthcare?
Vaccines, procedures, and lab costs will be passed on to the patient near “cost” without a large mark-up. This will hopefully encourage patients to have their issues addressed, however minor they may seem.
Can I switch to Dr. McWilliams and how do I change doctors?
If you would like to change to Dr. McWilliams, please let my office know at 936-582-0220 and they will process the request as his practice is almost full as well. Check your insurance plan for other primary care providers available in your network. I am happy to make recommendations for you as well, and will be sending a list of possible providers to you in the near future. We will make your records available on disk at no charge or will send them to the provider of your choice.