Hipsters Turning to Concierge Healthcare

Too hip to fill out insurance forms, they just pay in advance

The term hipster is one that has grown in both popularity and usage lately. It has different meanings to different people, but mainly a hipster is one who follows the latest trends and fashions, while maintaining a counter culture outlook.

A hipster is typically somewhere between their 20s and 30s, and usually exists on the forefront of everything new and unconventional. Some people are turned off by hipster types and label them pretentious.

While this hipster outlook and lifstyle has been traditionally centered on fashion, music, and films that exist outside of the mainstream market, it has now included of all things ... healthcare.

Younger consumers who seek alternative ways to spend their dollars are choosing boutique or concierge medical practices, which have historically only been for the affluent.

Personalized care

What exactly is concierge medicine?

It's basically a form of care where the patient pays a yearly retainer for an unlimited amount of medical visits. Doctors who practice concierge medicine take on far fewer patients than traditional physicians, so in theory they're able to provide more personalized care.

News outlets have reported doctors cutting their patient list in half just to provide a better and more focused amount of service.

Patients who visit these kinds of practices are usually able to have direct contact with their physician, receiving perks like getting the doctor's personal cell phone number and email address. Some concierge doctors are accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Also, medical examinations are longer, more extensive and include other components like mental, hearing and detailed vision tests. 

Concierge practices usually charge a yearly fee between $1,000 and $5,000, but companies like One Medical who offer a retainer fee of $199, have taken the concept of concierge medicine and introduced it to a younger, less affluent demographic.

This is where the hipster comes in, or that consumer who looks for alternative services that are seemingly not attached just to dollars and profit.

Many young people are choosing these types of boutique practices because they're able to receive medical care in a different way.

Although some additional medical fees are also paid by the patient on top of the retainer, less money is being spent to receive a higher quality of individualized care, according to patients.

Outside the box

One Medical is a prime example of a company that markets itself to the younger, urban and outside-of-the-box portion of consumers. It boasts that patients can use smartphones and web portals to make same day appointments, while also claiming to be affordable for those without healthcare insurance. In theory, these two perks are ideal for younger less financially stable adults.

In a 2011 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, results showed that younger people are using their smartphones to access medical information now more than ever. This includes the way they prefer to book medical appointments and communicate with their doctors.

GreenField Health is another boutique concierge practice that caters to younger adult patients.  The Portland, Ore. based company charges a sliding retainer fee based on the age of the patient.

So if you're age 18 to 24 you pay $12 monthly, which is $120 a year for unlimited visits. If you're age 50 to 59 you pay $51 a month, which is $588 a year, and the fees go up higher the older you are.

Consumers in hipster neighborhoods located in metropolitan areas like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco have been choosing boutique concierge practices in large numbers.

ConsumerAffairs contacted One Medical to determine what percentage of its patients were of the younger 20 to 35 year old demographic, and Samantha, who is an employee of the company said, "The majority of our patients are younger people in bigger cities. People who are really busy and don't have a lot of time to sit in the doctor's office."

Same-day appointments as well as being able to book visits by smartphone is a key selling point for practices like One Medical and GreenField Health. There  are other unique perks that draw in younger consumers.

Students get a $100 discount on the retainer fee, paying only $99 a year, and younger doctors are hired to relate better to younger patients, explained Samantha at One Medical's Washington, D.C office.

Since One Medical and GreenField Health are both relatively new practices opening in 2005 and 2007 respectively, and still somewhat unknown, there isn't any chatter about them in our ConsumerAffairs complaints and Review section.

But as these two companies and others like them grow, tons of reviews are bound to come.

"Older" patients

Young hipster types aren't the only ones using these medical services. In April of 2011, The New York Times spoke with 40-year old Jennifer Contreras who is a patient of One Medical. She claimed there was no waiting time to see the doctor, and her visit with him was un-rushed, detailed and extremely thorough.

"We did all the careful fine-tuning over e-mail until we got just the right dosage of blood pressure medication," she said. It wasn't just 'Oh, take this medication and I'll see you later.' It was 'Let's make sure we get this right.' "

Critics of places like One Medical and GreenField say older people and seniors are being thrust out of receiving quality healthcare at lower costs. Especially since many of these practices charge a higher annual fee for older patients.

Dr. Ashish Jha an associate professor with Harvard School of Public Health said "One Medical could potentially scale by getting more and more younger people who are relatively healthy."

Other critics say younger people tend to be healthier and need the least amount of medical care, so yearly retainers aren't truly needed for them.

But for the most part negative reviews about hipster healthcare have been far and few. It'll be interesting to see how younger patients really fare as these medical practices grow both in popularity and patient interest.

Story provided by ConsumerAffairs.
Consumer Affairs

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