S.A. doctor offers concierge medical care

Wendy Rigby
KENS 5 Eyewitness News

Patients often gripe that the health care system is broken. They have trouble getting appointments when they need them. They spend hours in the waiting room, and sometimes, they don’t even end up seeing a doctor.

However, there is a new trend in medicine that’s addressing these familiar complaints.

A San Antonio physician is calling himself a “concierge” doctor.

Dr. Brian MacGillivray, of Grey Canyon Family Medicine, is one of a new breed of doctors. About 300 physicians across the country are running “concierge” practices, where patients pay a set annual fee for their care. The fee means no insurance company co-pays and more personalized service.

“The problem that I had, or was increasingly having, was that I wasn’t able to take care of patients in fashion that they deserve to be taken care of,” he said.

Dr. MacGillivray has been a family practice doctor for 10 years. But he believes health care is “sick,” and he wanted to be a good doctor, as apposed to an adequate one who forced to see too many sick people at a time. He says health care suffers and patients are dissatisfied.

“Something’s going to snap. And if you want to think of this, kind of a Norma Rae moment for me, meaning, you know, the rubber has met the road — it’s my way of saying patients come first,” MacGillivray said.

Norma Rae was a disgruntled textile worker who defied the company to help start a union.

MacGillivray’s new action plan has struck a chord with patients like Denise Hughes, who has been less than pleased with her managed care treatment.

“I can be seen by a physician’s assistant, or triage the illness over the phone with the nurse, but rarely do I get in to see the doctor,” she said.

Hughes pays a yearly fee of $1,800. For that price, she gets round-the-clock access to care from a physician who will even make a house call if he needs to.

“What that gets for them is 24 hours, 7 days a week access to me by cell phone. In other words, if you’re my patient, you call me,” MacGillivray said. “You’re not getting my answering service, you’re not getting my nurse, you’re getting me.”

Many doctors have 3,000 to 5,000 patients whose appointments last, on average, about six minutes. MacGillivray is limiting his practice to 600 patients. He says their appointments are over when all of their concerns have been addressed.

Dr. Bill Hinchey of San Antonio is the incoming president of the Texas Medical Association. Hinchey says the budding trend of concierge medicine is a response to dissatisfaction with current health plans.

“I’m sure doctors are fed up. They get frustrated. They go to this method. So it is a direct, a more direct relationship between then and their patients,” Hinchey said.

Many of the patients at MacGillivray’s practice do keep some insurance to pay for tests and hospitalizations and prescriptions.

MacGillivray admits that opening his new office at 20658 Stone Oak Pkwy. is a big leap. But he says he’s ready to take a risk to practice personalized medicine.

“And I’m pleased, as a provider, that I get to do what I was trained to do — finally.” MacGillivray said.

So what does this kind of service cost? If an individual joins this practice for $1,800 a year, the spouse can join for $1,700 and children are added for $600 each per year.
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