Red fluffy robes.

Fireplace in the sitting area.

Oil paintings and family portraits that hang on the wall.

Throw rugs throughout the hallways and rooms.

Complimentary coffee or champagne.

Does this sound like the setting of a doctor’s clinic? Well, it is.

“We wanted something comfortable that made them [the patients] feel like this clinic was the extension of their home,” said Dr. Connie Mariano, the founder and owner of Concierge for Executive Medicine in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Wearing a gray sweater dress with black boots, you won’t find this doctor wearing a lab coat. Instead, she looks like your friend. “Part of it is making people feel special. I think that’s what’s missing in medicine now.”

The first military woman to head the White House Medical Unit and first Filipino woman to become Navy rear admiral came up with the concept after following President Bill Clinton and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a practice in which you treated every patient as though they were the president of the United States in terms of the contact that we have with our patient where they can reach us at anytime?”

That means her more than 300 patients from all over the world have access to her 24 hours a day, seven days a week — by email, over the phone or through text. Most of her patients are retired CEOs and their families. Thanks to modern technology, they are able to have virtual office visits. “I had one patient who had a rash [and emailed me a picture] and said, “This is bothering me. What do you think it is?””

With the help of a second opinion from a dermatologist, Dr. Mariano could tell the patient had eczema. She called in a prescription to a pharmacy for a cream to treat the eczema, saving the patient time and money from having to go to an office visit. 

The only doctor on staff understands that time is valuable to her patients. She’s on her iPhone all the time. And, when it comes to office visits, there’s no waiting in the sitting area. “The appointment begins when the patient arrives.”

Her team (which consists of an office manager, an executive assistance and a receptionist) knows them by their first name.  “We are all waiting for them.  We’ve prepared their paperwork. I have their results waiting.”

This type of healthcare with a focus on customer service doesn’t come cheap. There’s a $10,000 fee per year, per new patient, and additional fees depending on the office appointment. And, she does home visits too, but it will cost you. Her patients don’t mind writing that check.

“So one thing about my patients, [they say] I have a doctor who took care of three presidents of the United States and that’s important for them. It’s a private club.”

Her office doesn’t bill insurance, similar to other medical concierge clinics like hers. Their fees though, Dr. Mariano said, range anywhere between $3,000 to $50,000 a year, per patient. If you think these fees are high, Dr. Mariano said it’s not for everybody.

“My patients pay their bills. They are responsible and feel empowered to make sure they stay healthy and stay away from unhealthy habits because they’re paying the bills.”

Here’s the reality, Dr. Mariano said there’s no doubt there’s a problem with healthcare in this country. She’s seeing fewer people wanting to become doctors because it’s just too costly.

According to her, Medicare pays the doctors $20.00 for a routine visit.

With overhead costs, that means a doctor needs to see 40 to 50 patients a day. “The business model doesn’t work if you take straight insurance. You have to hire other people, [which doesn’t help minimize overhead costs]. I know good doctors who go out of business because they can’t afford to just take insurance.”

In the end, the published author of “The White House Doctor” said, she enjoys taking care of patients, but she doesn’t like to be told how to do it. Having her boutique medical practice, “It gives me a way to do it, using the market with a special group of patients who want that type of care.”

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