The country's largest concierge medicine firm, MDVIP, was recently hit with an $8.5 million jury verdict in a medical malpractice case. This verdict is the first against any concierge management firm, a relatively new phenomenon in healthcare. Medical malpractice lawyers at Pintas & Mullins explain this case and how similar firms could be found liable for negligence.
There are several models of concierge healthcare, from basic to comprehensive<:
1. Travel medical assistance, which connects consumers to operators if they are hurt or sickened abroad.
2. Private health advisories, which helps with complex disease management, electronic medical records, comprehensive physical exams, and access to second opinions.
3. Private physician practices, which provides consumers with a 24-hour physician with higher levels of personal interaction.
4. Total care platform, which includes all the above-mentioned services in addition to other services, like immediate telediagnosis and treatment.
These concierge firms were created for consumers with a little more money to spend to bypass public healthcare systems. Doctors often prefer these firms because they give them greater control over their practices and because they can benefit financially.
Doctors are not directly employed by concierge firms; instead, doctors pay the firm a per-patient stipend (for things like marketing, legal and branding) and are paid by patient membership fees and insurance revenue.
MDVIP was founded 15 years ago by Procter & Gamble and charges members $1,500 to $1,800 per year for "exceptional care and fast access to all types of physicians." The firm contracts nearly 800 doctors in more than 40 states. All doctors with MDVIP are limited to serving 600 patients - compared to 2,000 - 3,000 for doctors in traditional healthcare systems - and they must be available 24/7 for their patients.
The lawsuit was filed against both MDVIP and the individual doctor, Charles Metzger, by the widower of the deceased Joan Beber. Beber sought medical attention for leg pain and was repeatedly misdiagnosed by Metzger and other MDVIP staff. She was referred to several orthopedists, who were not told that her symptoms were worsening and did not receive her medical records from MDVIP.
Had the orthopedists received her medical records and progression information, they likely would have discovered that she had a very serious circulation problem. No one caught the problem until it was too late, however, forcing Beber to have her leg amputated above the knee in 2008. She died four years after the amputation, from leukemia.
Metzger settled with Beber's family out of court before the case went to trial. Ultimately, the Florida jury found MDVIP liable for the doctor's negligence and misdiagnosis. The jury also found that MDVIP was falsely advertising its services and healthcare as exceptional.
This case is important because it was the first confirmation that concierge firms may be found liable for the care provided by contracted doctors. It also confirms that concierge companies must be more cautious about how they advertise their services and market their doctors.