In the market economy, it is not surprising that a healthcare system ends up as a form of business. A variation of this transformation is concierge medicine described in the case: the scheme allows families to pay a specific price for a whole-year medical aid. There are various services and products that a hospital could offer its patients in this context. Concierge medicine has a reasonable number of advantages as well as even a more significant number of drawbacks.
To begin with, one may speculate over the kind of products and services that concierge medicine may offer to its patients. First, these are the high-quality medical service that would include rare testing and treatment. Secondly, it could be relevant to offer clients massages, attendance of steaming room, and other kinds of spa procedures. Thirdly, access to sports activities could be provided: yoga classes, swimming, or fitness center, for instance. Speaking of the products that could be offered in the context of concierge medicine, those could be drugs and cosmetics for caring of hair and nails. In a word, there are many opportunities that a hospital can use in order to promote its services with concierge medicine.
As for the advantages of concierge medicine, they primarily lie in the economic benefits that allow hospitals and medical units to acquire new equipment, employ professional staff, and increase their earnings. According to Goldman et al. (2014), after the opening of Ronald Reagan Medical Center, “the proportion of patients who say they would definitely recommend UCLA to family and friends has increased by 20%” (p. 2185). In other words, this kind of marketing – private and family-friendly rooms, hotel-level nutrition, and massage therapy – ends up indeed efficient. Hence, these services provide hospitals with an opportunity to improve the level of services and job satisfaction of the employees, for instance.
Another beneficial aspect of the service discussed is that it enriches the market with a supply that satisfies the needs of the population able to cover such spendings. It seems fair that individuals that can afford comfort, as well as high-quality medical treatment, should have such an opportunity (Dai & Tayur, 2018). The defenders of libertarian values would insist that following the demand and supply rule of the market is in no way wrong. Therefore, families receive a chance to take care of their wellbeing significantly better. Moreover, concierge medicine provides more personalized treatment and attention from a physician, and, hence, communication between doctors and patients should become more productive. In other words, the creation of such services with upscale amenities, good views, and other elements of comfort is rather natural.
However, this trend also poses many questions to the contemporary U.S. healthcare system. First, profit-driven medicine might push physicians to provide excessive medical care: carrying out tests that patients do not need and going through the unnecessary procedures to say nothing of false diagnosis and treatment. It can be seen on the examples of the countries that practice both free public healthcare services and private clinics. Hence, when a healthcare system becomes a form of business, it ends up counterproductive in the context of providing sufficient, not an excessive medical aid.
Secondly, the factor of high-quality amenities offered by some medical institutions may affect patients’ choice of where to go to in case of emergency, and, hence, may harm one’s wellbeing. Goldman et al. (2014) demonstrate this trend with the study, according to which patients with pneumonia often tend to ignore an opportunity to choose the closest hospital. Meanwhile, “they were willing to travel to get care at an alternative hospital” (Goldman et al., 2014, p. 2188). It is evident that such a scheme of action is counterproductive, as healthcare goal is to provide medical aid in the most efficient way possible. Ignoring these intentions of the patients valuing comfort over healthcare seems irresponsible from the position of the system. However, there is also an opinion that patients must have a right to make decisions affecting their lives and wellbeing. High-quality amenities appear to become a factor contributing to actions harmful to patients’ health.
Another issue to be mentioned is possible social discontent about the profit-orienteered healthcare system contributing to the growth of social inequality. From the perspective of the defenders of social justice, public institutions such as hospitals are supposed to provide equal treatment to people no matter what social class individuals belong to. The case under discussion creates an elitist space for the wealthy population. Such a seemingly natural distinction forms social tensions, which dehumanizes the lower classes from the leftist point of view. Therefore, for the sake of social stability, governors should avoid situations when hospitals offer unnecessary and rather expensive services to their patients.
To conclude, concierge medicine is a natural product of a society living in the market economy. This scheme may offer various medical services as well as extra options such as spa procedures or sports activity, for instance. In favor of concierge medicine, there is an idea of market enrichment and the provision of hospitals with extra finances. Nevertheless, there are many questions about this model of healthcare services organization: from excessive medical aid to harmful prioritization of comfort in comparison to urgent medical help.
Dai, T., & Tayur, S. (2018). Handbook of healthcare analytics: Theoretical minimum for conducting 21st century research on healthcare operations. Wiley Series in Operations Research and Management Science.
Goldman, D., Vaiana, M., & Romley, J. (2010). The emerging importance of patient amenities in hospital. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(23), 2185 – 2187.