HealthLinks Charleston March/April 2023

72 | www. Char l es tonPhys i c i ans . com | www.Hea l thL i nksChar l es ton . com C H A R L E S T ON CO U N T Y M E D I C A L S OC I E T Y CONCIERGE MEDICINE BRINGS A NEW MODEL OF CARE TO A VERY OLD CAREER By Theresa Stratford The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the number of jobs for physicians and surgeons will increase 3% between now and 2031, which is a slower than average rate. The Association of American Medical Colleges states on its website: “As our population grows and ages, the demand for physicians continues to grow faster than the supply, resulting in an estimated shortfall of between 37,800 and 124,000 primary care and specialty physicians by 2034. Doctor shortages pose a real risk to patients – especially for those in rural or underserved areas. It is critical that we invest in training enough doctors so that patients have access to the timely, appropriate care that they need.” Dr. Melvin Brown of Charleston Medicine and Behavioral Health, a concierge medical practice on James Island, spoke about the physician shortage issue and the dire need in primary care especially. He has worked as an emergency room physician for the past 14 years. In medical school, he studied emergency medicine and pediatrics but ultimately set out on a path to primary care. Dr. Brown reflected on the number of patients he saw during his pediatric residency and how he wasn’t able to spend enough time that was desperately needed with his pediatric patients. “So many of the couples I worked with in pediatrics were very young, and what they really needed was counseling on how to parent. Things like what formula to use or what to do about antibiotics. It was just tough because I didn’t have the time that I really wanted to spend with them,” he said. So instead of pediatrics, he shifted to emergency medicine residency training and practice, where he said that 40% to 60% of his patient interactions were primary care matters. Although he spent 14 years doing ER work, which he said he absolutely loved in many ways, there was a corporate atmosphere that didn’t suit him. And that’s where concierge medicine came in and swept Dr. Brown off his feet – so to speak. He said that when he heard about concierge medicine, he instantly realized that so much about the concept fit exactly what he was looking for as a primary care physician. Many primary care physicians have between 2,000 and 5,000 patients. With the concierge model, the primary care doctor has around 400 to 700 patients, which, as Dr. Brown puts it, “is much more manageable.” Many concierge practices do not take insurance at all. Sometimes referred to as “retainer” medicine, concierge medicine is a relationship between a patient and the primary care Dr. Melvin Brown