Concierge Medicine: What It Is & What It Can Do For You
Origin and Etymology of “Concierge”
French, from Old French, probably from Vulgar Latin *conservius, alteration of Latin conservus fellow slave, from com- + servus slave (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
Are you tired of going to the doctor and walking out with only a prescription for pills? Are you interested in knowing more about how to take care of your own health, naturally? If you are struggling with a chronic illness, imagine going to the doctor and feeling stronger and healthier after each visit. If you are already well, picture feeling even more vibrantly alive after visiting the doctor – that is the core of concierge medicine.
What is concierge medicine?
Concierge medicine is a reinvention of a very old concept: a doctor who delivers a broad, comprehensive program of medical care that serves you in creating health.
The oldest root of the word “concierge” comes from Latin, conservius, meaning “fellow slave.” Like the servant-leader, a concierge doctor is dedicated to working with you, literally “slaving” with you, to create the level of health you desire.
Many concierge practices charge an annual fee that gives you the privilege of making appointments. Essentially you are making a down payment for services that is then applied to your insurance deductible, and the office staff bills insurance for your visits. Some doctors offer additional perks, e.g. home visits or complementary annual blood work. Like most doctors’ offices, this system is dedicated to addressing symptoms and not creating health.
I have created a very different approach to concierge medicine, one that is based on health care rather than sick care. Your health stands on a foundation of right relationship between your emotions, mind, spirit, and physical being. I meet you at that level. I balance East & West, science and spirit so we are addressing the whole of your life.
Going to the doctor to stay well
Centuries ago in China people paid the doctor when they were well. Most Westerners assume the patients were “paying it forward,” amassing credit to shelter them from a future time of illness.
Instead, Chinese patients saw the doctor when they were well, to maintain and even further improve their health. The doctor gave individualized information about diet, herbs, relaxation, and movement to keep each person healthy/build the patient’s health.
Assuming the patient was following the doctor’s instructions if the patient became ill, the doctor cared for the patient at no charge.
What if I’m a hot mess?
Most of the people I work have very complex, challenging lives. Physical symptoms are tangled with stressful work environments, difficult relationships, thwarted creativity, financial upheaval, contradictory beliefs, flashes of brilliance and unfathomable despair. You may be living with special needs children while caring for aging parents or journeying with a chronic condition that has accompanied you for years or decades.
Through medical concierge work, you begin the process of untangling these many aspects of your life. As you loosen the knot, you discover what good health looks like for you; then, working with natural medicines, you develop the vitality to do what is most important for you.
Who is a good fit for concierge medicine?
People just like you are a good fit for concierge medicine. If you see the dentist every six months, you already practice preventive medicine. Women who have an annual “well woman” visit with their gynecologist are investing in health.
In our culture today, insurance is focused primarily on sick care. With some exceptions, “health” insurance in the US addresses illness, not well-being. This is not a criticism but rather the reality of how the system is built. As a society we are not used to investing in health; we wait until we have symptoms to see the doctor.
If you are reading this, I know you are invested in building a life of health and vitality. You don’t want to wait until disease is at your doorstep to take action.
You want medicine that addresses you as a whole person, that supports you in being radiantly healthy so you can do the things that are most important to you.
What do you do in a concierge program?
The concierge patients I work with move through a 7-step program:
- Clarify your vision of health and assess your current state in an in-depth interview of past and current symptoms; order lab tests.
- Review your individualized Whole Body, Whole Life Program and collaboratively develop an implementation plan so you can quickly get the results you want.
- Eat to live: develop and implement an individualized nutrition program so you can feel good in body and soul. Includes instruction on how to shop for food and cook incredibly delicious meals.
- Move to your groove: discover the forms and amounts of movement/exercise that strengthen and heal so you can move to your groove.
- Clear Mind and Balanced Spirit so you can enjoy mental clarity and peace of mind. Master methods of resolving past and current emotional challenges so you can live joyfully in the present moment.
- Clean Body, Healthy Home: learn the best ways of cleaning your body (inside and out) and your home to support your health.
- Take the most targeted, effective natural medicines, based on my 40+ years of working with natural medicines to tailor natural medicine recommendations so you can rest assured that you’re receiving the best care.
Do I have to choose between conventional and natural medicines?
Absolutely not. My patients receive the best of all possible worlds in their concierge medical care.
Medicine includes a spectrum of care. With a background as a musician, I often use musical analogies to illustrate an idea. Visualize a piano keyboard as a representation of the medical spectrum. Think of drugs and surgery as bass notes on the piano. Food and herbs reside in the middle of the keyboard, around “middle C.” More energetic, “higher frequency” therapies such as homeopathy, acupuncture, essential oils, flower essences, qigong, prayer and visualization reside in the upper octaves of the keyboard.
Each person has a “home base,” a resonant frequency on the keyboard. Over the years I’ve learned to let go of any judgment about what medicines a patient will respond to. Someone may request a homeopathic remedy to lower blood pressure, for example, but if the bass notes are her “home base,” she likely will not respond to the homeopathic prescription. More than once I have prescribed an ace inhibitor or other high blood pressure prescription drug when someone did not respond to natural therapies.
Conversely, some people demand a prescription drug to address a symptom but have debilitating reactions. They may require herbs, exercise recommendations and/or acupuncture to address the condition.
When someone has a late stage or very aggressive disease (e.g. cancer or emphysema), he may need to incorporate medicines from the entire spectrum. He can use his “home base” on the keyboard to better tolerate the side effects of medicines outside his normal range.
No barbed wire fences separate the octaves on the piano keyboard. Each medicine has its gifts and its challenges. When used correctly, for the right person at the right time, each key on the piano keyboard has the potential to catalyze healing.
When the great pianist Rachmaninoff composed a piano concerto, he prided himself on using every single key on the keyboard. When someone has a complex, late-stage disease, ideally he or she incorporates every aspect of the medical spectrum to address the condition.
Health is about the way we live our lives
Health is built on the way you live your life. In fact, health is a way of life.
About six months into her treatment, one late-stage lung cancer patient shared, “I never thought I would say this, but I’m healthier now than when I was first diagnosed with cancer because I’ve learned how to take care of my whole body, my whole being.”
Even in the face of a major disease, you can build health. This is the power of vitalism, which is a core understanding in my practice.
What is vitalism?
“Vitalism” is the body’s core vitality, the life force, our primary energy and source of well-being. This vital force is fueled by seven pillars, and thankfully supplements are only one of those seven pillars. I do recommend certain well-placed supplements (nutrients, herbs, homeopathic remedies, essential oils, hormones and even some pharmaceutical drugs). The purpose of these supplements, though, is to engage the vital force, NOT to cover up symptoms.
Can supplements be used to cover up symptoms? Sadly, yes. I recently went backpacking with a dear friend and was shocked when she pulled a gallon-sized zip-lock bag out of her pack that was half-filled with pills for our four-day journey. She was working with a naturopathic doctor to rebuild her immune system, and the only treatment modality she was prescribed were pills: hormones, nutrients, and some herbs.
This naturopathic physician, like many of her generation, only knows about prescribing pills to address symptoms, much like the allopathic (conventional) doctors so many patients have grown weary of. Both these “natural” physicians and the conventional doctors guide patients to “take this for that,” a system that addresses the symptoms but does not resolve the root of the disease. Take echinacea for colds. Take comfrey for wound healing. Take deglycerrinated licorice for stomach acid. Take this for that.
When a disease has become chronic, most patients require deeper restoration OR deeply restorative treatments to address the root of their condition, e.g.
- Specific hydrotherapy treatments (using water externally, and sometimes internally, e.g. colonics)
- Breathing exercises
- Restorative acupuncture
- Chinese and/or western herbs
- Emotional release
- Constitutional homeopathy
- Spiritual/inner renewal
- Other treatments that catalyze the vital force
As an example, I recently visited at home with a patient who was experiencing lots of gas, bloating, abdominal cramping and loose stools. She was just entering a new relationship with a partner and felt a deeper sense of connection and security than she had ever experienced before. With this profound emotional opening came a deep upwelling of grief that completely surprised her.
We talked about how griefs and traumas often are carefully packed away until we finally feel safe enough to address them. We explored the origins of her sorrow, most of which stemmed from her early childhood relationship with an angry, physically abusive father.
I could have prescribed St. John’s Wort/Hypericum perforatum for depression, or a homeopathic remedy for grief. Instead, she learned a profound forgiveness technique and practiced it while focusing on her early childhood memories of her father.
After the exercise, she cried, something she rarely allowed herself to do. Later that evening I asked how she was doing.
She smiled. “My stomach is feeling better. And my digestion is SO much better!”
Pills might have helped her, too, but addressing the deeper root of her digestive issues, old griefs and disappointments provided her with the understanding and the tools to address the roots of her digestive problems.
A point of clarification: I do not assume all physical ailments have a mental or emotional cause. Sometimes nutrients and/or herbs absolutely are the most appropriate way of addressing a health concern. Relying on supplements alone, though, will not take you very far down the path toward full, vibrant health.
Health deposits vs. health catalysts
Health “deposits” are the ongoing, daily choices you make that support health, e.g. diet, exercise, water, relaxation and personal hygiene. Like ongoing small deposits in a bank account, these daily choices accrue to create the foundations of health.
Health catalysts, in contrast, can trigger a quantum leap to a much improved/greater state of health. Most supplements qualify as health deposits, but certain natural medicines can catalyze major transformations. Examples of health catalyst supplements include flower essences and constitutional homeopathic remedies. Qigong, prayer and emotional release techniques (all “upper keyboard” medicines) may also potentiate major health changes.
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, emphasized the need to “remove obstacles to cure” before the more subtle, upper keyboard remedies could take effect. I worked with a patient, for example, whose daily diet consisted of 10 candy bars and 12 cans of cola, and she lived with a husband who chain-smoked 4 packs of cigarettes each day. Without making dietary changes and reducing secondary smoke exposure, a constitutional homeopathic remedy likely would have a very little impact on her health. She required removing the obstacles to cure (poor diet, high sugar and caffeine intake, and tobacco smoke exposure) before the medicine could do its work.
How do I know if concierge medicine is a good fit for me?
If you want to improve your health, to have even more energy and vitality, concierge medicine is a good fit for you. You may be struggling with a chronic condition or recovering from an injury. Concierge medicine turns the role of the physician upside-down, shifting from “Doctor-God” to a fellow servant, a doctor who deeply, broadly supports you in creating the level of health you desire.
What kinds of conditions does concierge medicine treat?
Concierge medicine is a perfect fit if you are struggling with chronic disease OR want to optimize your health for peak performance. Some of the conditions include:
- Chronic pain
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Chronic fatigue
- Physical conditions that result from inner/spiritual changes
- Mild depression
- Recurrent urinary tract infections
- Vaginal dryness
- Low libido
- Erectile dysfunction
- Adrenal fatigue
- Autoimmune conditions
- Autoimmune thyroiditis (Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Grave’s Disease)
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Sjogren’s Syndrome
- Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
- Celiac sprue disease
- Type I Diabetes
- Positive ANA
- Hay fever
- Type II Diabetes
- Premenstrual Syndrome
- Infertility (men and women)
- Ulcerative colitis
- Crohn’s Disease
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERDS)
- Chronic bronchitis
- Chronic sinusitis
What’s Are My Best Next Steps?
Knowing you are deeply committed to having full, vibrant health, I am offering a free 20-minute Next Step session to support you in developing a crystal-clear vision of health and identifying your next best action to take in developing the level of health you desire.
About Dr. Judith Boice
Dr. Judith Boice is a naturopathic physician, acupuncturist, best-selling and award-winning author, and international teacher. Her mission is treating the whole person, not just the symptoms. Dr. Boice delivers sustainable health care rather than quick fixes.
She believes when people know what being healthy looks like for them, they get to have a great life, whether that’s riding bikes with their grandchildren, running three Iron Man competitions a year, or staying healthy in a high-pressure job/staying healthy on the job without working 5 million hours a week.
Dr. Boice consults with private patients, writes books, and offers trainings that teach people with chronic illness how to increase their energy, reduce symptoms and reverse disease by restoring their health with natural medicines.
She believes vibrant wellness is the natural outcome when people live in harmony with the Earth, their body, and their spirit.
Dr. Boice graduated from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine (1994) and the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (1996). She has been in practice for 24 years and is a Fellow of the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (FABNO) and Senior Vitalist of the Naturopathic Medical Institute. Dr. Boice worked for three years at Cancer Treatment Centers of America Southwestern Regional Medical Center. She lives in central Oregon.