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SOUTHLAKE Few physicians can dedicate the time and attention to patients that Marcus Welby MD famously did in that 1970s television series.

Dr. Robin Hall in Southlake does.

She's part of a booming health trend called concierge care.

In soothing spa-like surroundings, Dr. Hall provides medical care 24-7, house calls, same-day appointments at the patient's convenience, and more.

If I diagnose someone with cancer, and they want me to, I will go with them to the oncologist office to ask questions on their behalf that they may not think to ask because that's a very emotional diagnosis, she said.

For this VIP care, Dr. Hall limits her practice to fewer than 200 patients. Each pays an annual membership fee, starting at $2,000 cash.

She does not take Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance. Patients, however, can use those health plans to fill prescriptions or see a specialist.

Despite that out-of-pocket expense, concierge care is in high demand because of health care reform.

I do think that as more and more people are insured and there's less and less time for people to be seen, more and more people will seek this out, says Dr. Hall of DestinationHealth.com. Because more people are going to be insured, it's going to be even harder to access care in a timely manner. If individuals already think they have to wait to see a doctor not only just for the appointment, but in the waiting room, too that may increase.

In fact, ten potential patients have scheduled a tour of her upscale Colleyville office this week, which has most of the same medical amenities as a traditional family practice.

Most of her incoming patients are not the affluent elite, but from the middle class, who want to select a personal physician before health care reform limits choices for them.

There are now about 5,000 boutique medical practices in the country. More than 1,000 opened within the last year, according to the Society for Innovative Medical Practice Design. Many more are expected in coming years, as health care reform laws take effect.

Under the law, Americans will be required to carry insurance, but physicians won't be required to accept it.

Debbie Wessel has insurance, but was sick of being treated like a number in a large family practice.

We never had the one-on-one relationship with the doctor, Wessel said. We never saw the same doctor twice in a row, and they just were not familiar with our charts.

It's a situation she suspects will become worse as millions more suddenly-insured patients crowd waiting rooms.

Critics say boutique medicine will only exaggerate the health insurance crisis. Many doctors may leave traditional family practices widening the gap between the affluent and the poor.

Dr. Hall cut her practice to about one-fifth of what it once was so she could provide better all-around care.

She may not be Marcus Welby, but she believes health care is headed back to the future.

E-mail: jstjames@wfaa.com

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