Frequently Asked Questions about Concierge Medicine and Direct Primary Care Providers
What is direct primary care (DPC)?
Direct primary care is a relatively new model with which to deliver primary care. Just as you don’t use your car insurance to pay for oil changes and tire rotations, in direct primary care you don’t use your insurance to pay for primary care. Patients are charged a modest retainer fee in return for which they get 24/7 access to their physician via phone and same-day or next-day appointments, which nearly always start on time and which can last an hour or more (initial visits are scheduled for 2 hours).
The retainer fee is charged by our providers so that each physician in the practice can limit the number of patients for which he or she cares to no more than 600 (typical panel sizes for a fee-for-service primary care physician range anywhere between 2,500 – 4000 patients). By doing this, physicians can take care of their patients the way they’ve always wanted: with the luxury of time to take complete and thorough histories, to think problems through rather than reflexively refer to specialists, and to actually read and research about problems they can’t figure out immediately—in essence to provide their patients not just with a primary care doctor but with a personal health manager.
The difference between the customer service that ImagineMD primary care physicians can provide and the customer service that traditional fee-for-service primary care physicians can provide is like the difference between a dial-up modem and broadband. With a broadband connection, you don’t just use the Internet faster. You use it differently.
Is direct primary care (DPC) the same as concierge medicine?
Same idea, but cheaper. And we don’t bill your insurance for anything.
How much does it cost?
Our physicians charge $149/month, regardless of age (about the same cost as drinking a café mocha every day for a month, a monthly gym membership, or a monthly cable subscription).
What if I decide to cancel my membership?
You can leave the practice at any time by providing written notice (email is fine). Your membership fee for that month will not be refunded, but no further fees will be charged. You can also rejoin the practice if you wish after a waiting period of six months (as long as space in the practice still exists).
Why would I choose ImagineMD?
Our goal at ImagineMD is to enable our physicians to practice medicine the way it could be and should be—not just with outstanding clinical care but also with outstanding customer service.
So when you have even a minor medical question, when you want to make sure that the advice a specialist gave you is good, when you have a perplexing problem that requires extended thinking, reading, and research to puzzle out, when you’re anxious about a pending test result and need reassurance, or when you need an extended conversation to understand why you’re being given certain advice or instructions or to understand exactly what it means to have a certain condition or disease—we’ll address those needs as if you were a close member of our own family. All of our discussions with you and all of our recommendations for you will be highly personalized. That is, we’ll have the time to learn about your values and your lifestyle and incorporate both into our thinking always.
We’ll also care for your mind as well as your body. To us, the emotional, psychological, and spiritual impact of a disease on a person’s life is as important to address as the disease itself.
Finally, data suggest that in some cases the cost of care with direct primary care physicians like those in ImagineMD is actually on average lower than in traditional fee-for-service primary care practices (though this will certainly not be the case with everyone). This is because a good primary physician with enough time to spend with his or her patients is better able to limit unnecessary testing and referrals, as well as address problems early before they become more serious and require more expensive intervention. Click here to read about the research in this area.
What does the membership fee cover?
The membership fee covers all office visits and virtual visits with your physician in the ImagineMD network. It also includes a yearly flu shot. For a specific list of services, see here.
What does the membership fee NOT cover?
The membership fee does NOT cover the cost of:
- Diagnostic blood tests (though all blood tests are drawn onsite as part of the membership fee so you don’t have to travel)
- X-rays (plain films, CT scans, MRI scans, etc.)
- Specialty tests (sleep studies, colonoscopies, etc.)
- Specialty referrals
- Recommended vaccinations (offered at our cost)
- Inpatient hospitalization
Do I still need health insurance?
Yes, you will still need health insurance to cover the cost of services not covered by our retainer fee (that is, to cover the cost of medications, specialty appointments, x-rays, blood tests, specialty tests, surgery, and hospitalizations). But because we will never bill your insurance ourselves for anything (none of ImagineMD physicians are in-network for any insurance plan), you can use any insurance you want (as long as your plan doesn’t require an in-network primary care physician for referrals). Our practice doesn’t alter your relationship or coverage with your medical insurance in the slightest.
Do you exclude patients based on pre-existing conditions?
Absolutely not! We welcome all patients, especially those with complex medical problems.
If I have Medicare, can I still join ImagineMD?
In order for physicians within the ImagineMD network to charge a retainer fee to Medicare patients they must opt out of Medicare billing. This doesn’t mean you are opting out of Medicare. It just means our physicians won’t ever bill Medicare for any services they provide (and that you can’t either). It means, therefore, that just like patients with other insurance, you will need to pay our physicians’ retainer fee out of your own pocket.
What if I need to see a specialist or be hospitalized?
Physicians in the ImagineMD network will make all necessary specialist referrals to a network of providers they know and assist you in obtaining specialist appointments. Our physicians will also assist with hospital admissions and consult regularly with the physicians caring for you while you’re there (though we will not serve as the inpatient attending of record). Our physicians will also coordinate discharge care and follow-up appointments with us.
Can children join ImagineMD?
At this time, only patients 18 years or older are eligible to join.
How do I contact my physician at ImagineMD?
You can contact your physician via phone or email 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We aim to return routine phone calls within 12-24 hours and all urgent/emergent phone calls immediately. Except when vacationing, your own personal physician will answer all your calls, whether during regular business hours or in the middle of the night.
What if I need medical attention while traveling?
Your physician will remain available to you for consultation no matter where you are in the world. If you require medical attention locally, they will communicate with any local provides you see.
How can I join?
You can click here or call (312) 374-5860.
If my employer is sponsoring my membership, do they have access to my medical record?
No. Your medical record is protected by privacy laws and remains completely confidential.