Category Archive

2023 May

Doc On Retainer: Concierge Medicine

2023 May, Benefit Spotlight April 27, 2023

If you’ve moved recently or had to find a new primary care physician (PCP) for any reason, it might have taken you much longer to get an appointment than expected.

Even getting a regular appointment could take weeks longer than it used to. You’re not imagining it – due to a growing shortage of PCPs, Americans are having to wait significantly longer to see doctors than we used to.

An alternative to long waits at traditional doctors’ offices is concierge medicine, or its cousin, direct primary care (DPC). To access this kind of care, you’ll pay an annual or monthly fee that gets you direct physician access. Each practice will vary, but generally you can expect to receive the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed access to care 24/7
  • Same-day or next-day appointments
  • Coverage of standard care like blood work, preventive screenings, and physicals
  • No copays or deductibles for office visits
  • More personalized care
  • On average, twice as much time with your doctor per visit

It’s crucial to note that there are drawbacks as well. DPC practices typically do not accept insurance and are entirely fee-based, while some concierge systems do accept insurance. You’ll still need regular health insurance to cover hospitalization and specialty referrals. If cash is tight, concierge medicine may not be a good choice – annual fees can run from $1,200 to $10,000. However, if your finances are in a good place, and you want guaranteed access to care, there is a growing number of concierge and DPC providers you can investigate today.

What Is Concierge Medicine? A Complete Guide – Forbes Health
Advantages and Disadvantages of Concierge Medical Care (
Many Doctors are Switching to Concierge Medicine, Exacerbating Physician Shortages – Scientific American

Changing Times: Menopause

Plenty consequences of aging are talked about – balding, joint stiffness, a sudden need for bifocals – but one aspect of aging isn’t talked about as often, even though it affects roughly half the population.

Menopause is a natural part of aging, marking the time in which a person with a uterus stops menstruating. It typically occurs between the ages of 45-55, but can happen earlier, for example, if someone had a hysterectomy or suffered damage to their ovaries from chemotherapy.

The menopausal transition lasts on average from 7 to 14 years. Its length depends on many factors such as smoking, current age, race, and ethnicity. Menopause involves changes in hormonal levels, specifically estrogen and progesterone. These hormones regulate one’s period and release of eggs, or ovulation. When the body stops ovulating, the levels of these hormones drop off. The reduction of these hormones can cause multiple symptoms:

  • Hot flashes
  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Emotional changes/mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in libido
  • And more

These symptoms can range from mild to pretty miserable, but there are hormonal and non-hormonal ways to treat them. Hormonal treatments involve taking low doses of estrogen or estrogen-progesterone through a patch, pill, or cream, while non-hormonal treatments involve changing one’s diet, exercising, and other prescription medications. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, have a uterus, and are over 40, you may want to talk to your doctor to see whether you are beginning menopause. They can help you figure out the best path forward to minimize your symptoms.


Too Bright! Blue Light Concerns

Between computers, tablets, and smart phones, we spend a lot of time looking at screens every day – almost half of every day, in fact.

The isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic boosted weekly screen times even higher. Aside from the well-documented effects that much screen time can have on your mental health, there’s a possibility it can affect your physical health too.

You may have read about or seen ads for blue light glasses or blue light filters, which are supposed to help protect your eyes from the harmful effects of a certain kind of blue light. This spectrum of blue light is created primarily by the sun, but also by fluorescent lights, LED TVs, and most device screens. Our eyes are not good at filtering blue light naturally, so most of it passes through the front of the eye to the retina (the part of the eye that helps the brain process what we see).

Some studies indicate that constant, ongoing exposure to blue light could eventually damage the retina, causing problems such as macular degeneration. However, these studies are ongoing and not conclusive. There is some evidence that blue-light blocking lenses do not actually protect your retinal health, despite what some advertisers may claim. Blue light lenses may help reduce eye strain from prolonged screen time, but that is unrelated to retina damage.

While blue light might not damage your retinas, it can still be harmful to you in other ways. Too much blue light can reduce your body’s production of melatonin and throw off your circadian rhythm, which disrupts your sleep cycle. A simple fix is to limit your screen time before bed so your body knows it’s time to go to sleep.


Practical Self-Care

It’s a phrase prominent in recent ads, whether for ice cream, golf clubs, or even soap – “self-care” is everywhere, convincing you that you could make yourself happy with a new exfoliant or take a much-earned break with a glass of wine. While there’s nothing wrong with treating yourself now and then, that’s not actually what self-care is – it’s far more important.

Self-care, simply put, means setting aside time to do things that bolster both your physical and mental health. While this could certainly involve a special snack or a bubble bath, there are multiple, daily acts of self-care you can take that will help you take care of your emotional and physical health.

Take care of your body. This could be as simple as taking twenty minutes to walk up and down the block. It might mean making sure you drink enough water. It could look like making sure you get enough sleep, getting enough protein in your diet, or taking up yoga.

Take care of your mind. Self-care in this arena can look like eliminating sources of unnecessary stress from your life. Cutting back on social media time might be a good self-care practice. Making sure you see friends and family who help you be your best self, doing a relaxing, creative hobby, or even meditation are just a few examples of mental and social self-care practices.

Not every practice works for every person. Set some time aside to experiment with different practices. Maybe yoga isn’t for you, but you want to pick up tennis instead. Meditation is not everyone’s cup of tea, but walking in nature might be just as effective in helping you move your body and relax your mind (see HERE and HERE for more suggestions.) It might take some time to find your best individual self-care practices, but they’ll be invaluable to your overall health and happiness.

What is Self-Care? – ISF (
Self-Care: 12 Ways to Take Better Care of Yourself | Psychology Today
NIMH » Caring for Your Mental Health (