Medical Staff Pulse is
a Publication of the Chief of Staff
2 Minutes with

"2 Minutes with...Albert Fuchs, M.D."

A chance phone conversation with a patient two years ago led to a dramatic change in the way Albert Fuchs, M.D., manages his private practice. Fuchs, a board-certified specialist in internal medicine, explains why he made the switch to "patient-sponsored medicine" -- and how it's improved his practice.

Why did you start offering "patient-sponsored medicine" (also known as concierge medicine)?

It was actually a patient's idea. She appreciated all the time I spent consulting with her on the phone and offered to pay me an annual fee for my services. She was my first "concierge" client and about a year ago I started offering it for other patients.

How does it work?

My patients pay a $2,400 annual fee and in exchange they get membership in a very small practice. Patients have my cell phone number and can reach me at any time. During appointments, they can spend as much time with me as they need, and because I'm limiting my patient load, they don't have to sit in the waiting room.

Doesn't this arrangement put you at your patients' beck and call?

Believe it or not, I get fewer late-night calls now and my patients are more grateful. Before, when I had a regular practice, patients took my services for granted. Now my patients all fall into two basic categories: successful professionals who want to stay healthy and retirees with medical problems who feel the Medicare system has failed them. They appreciate my time and don't abuse it.

What are the benefits for you?

It's made a huge difference in my life. With a smaller patient load, I can spend more time with my family (I have a wife and four children). I'm less physically exhausted because the hours are better, and I can even make it home for dinner. I also have more time to donate to patients who can't afford healthcare, so I volunteer at the Simms/Mann Health and Wellness Center in Santa Monica.

What don't more of your colleagues follow your example?

Most physicians are apprehensive about switching to this type of service. But I believe that as insurance companies continue to pay less, what I'm doing will become more and more attractive to them.

Dr. Fuchs has been an attending physician at Cedars-Sinai for seven years and currently serves on the Health Information Committee. He can be reached at (310) 652-1900.