A growing model in Minnesota: Paying doctors like fitness clubs – Minneapolis Star Tribune

A Minneapolis health cooperative has added a primary care doctor and joined the small but growing world of  “concierge clinics” that give patients unlimited access to physicians and other providers for a monthly fee.

Everspring Health charges $125 per month, much like fitness club dues, for individuals to receive unlimited visits with its doctor, along with access to weight management, massage therapy, skin therapy and other services.

In an era of rising chronic diseases and obesity, the current medical model of rushed doctor visits doesn’t help patients to identify and address the lifestyle issues that contribute to their health problems, said John Blaska, Everspring’s founder.

“The goal for us is to move health care closer to people’s lives,” he said, “to make it as easy for them as going to the coffee shop.”

The concept might not be as common in Minnesota, which is dominated by large physician practices such as HealthPartners and Mayo, but the American College of Private Physicians estimates that the number of concierge providers has more than doubled in the past three years.

Tracking growth is challenging because there is no one definition for concierge care, said Bill Ross, the physicians group’s executive director.

North Memorial was one of the first large group practices in Minnesota to open a concierge clinic with two doctors in 2015. The Minnetonka clinic promotes its 24/7 access to doctors and personal guidance when referring patients to specialists or for tests.

Life Time fitness offers its version of concierge care as well, with a clinic at its St. Louis Park athletic club that seeks to encourage optimal nutrition and exercise.

Everspring emerged from the opposite end of the health care spectrum, starting with alternative providers before adding a doctor this summer.

Everspring focuses on lifestyle changes to improve patients’ sleep, diet and stress. Having multiple providers available in a single place for a single fee is an advantage, Blaska said, because the providers learn different things about patients that can be combined into a treatment strategy.

More face time and visits is the goal, because it builds a well-rounded profile of patients’ needs, Blaska said. “Sometimes, people come in and we’ll just talk about a recipe for chicken soup.”

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