Strengthening this patient-doctor relationship is the key to achieving superior health outcomes, lower costs and an enhanced patient experience. Direct Primary Care (DPC) fosters this relationship by focusing on five key areas:
The most crucial part of DPC is adequate time spent between patient and physician, creating an enduring friendly doctor-patient relationship. Supported by more access to care, DPC enables unhurried visits and frequent discussions to assess treatment decisions aimed at long term health and wellbeing. DPC practices have smaller patient panels to support this commitment to service. DPC practices can have 150-1000 patients but the average is 600.
Patients in DPC choose their own personal physician and are active partners in their healthcare. By getting unhurried, accurate information the patients are fully involved in making their own medical and financial choices. This may mean that rather than adding more pills/ more specialists—that instead lifestyle choices and mental health may need emphasis. Also, because of low patient volumes per doctor—if you are sick, we should be able to see you that day or the next day—if a visit is needed for treatment or assessment.
DPC patients have the right to be given transparent pricing, access, and availability to all services provided by that doctor. You are already paying the doctor for their time in your monthly membership price. . THE FEE IS MONTH-TO-MONTH, there are no long term contracts with penalties to leave, unlike for a cell phone contract. Any items in addition to the doctor’s time are usually passed through to the patient at no additional markup. If there is additional cost, there are no price surprises before the service is given!!!! I have a menu of additional costs so you can see that they are cheap compared to what you are used to seeing. An example is if you need an EKG/ heart tracing-the cost is 5 dollars.
We all like choices, so people want to get answers and care as they need it. You will not have to come to the doctors office for all care/ questions. I commit to you that phone messages will be answered within 2 hours and texts and emails with questions will be answered within 24 hours. I want to keep you out of the expensive emergency rooms and acute care clinics if at all medically possible. This will improve your confidence by knowing that answers are always available for your health fears and concerns, for that important peace of mind we want.
By having enough time together, we get to know each other very well. I want to know how the family is doing, what your interests are. Time together builds trust, communication, and friendship. This time allows informed, appropriate referrals for patient needs when they are outside of what I can provide in primary care. I accept the responsibility to be available to patients serving as patient guides. No matter where patients are in the system, people often need guidance to the care they are getting. Sometimes I will have to interpret for you what the specialist is really saying!!
WHAT DPC IS:
- A return to the roots of primary care as we used to know it/ have it in the U.S.
- Time to explore treatment choices, and not just feel that you are being pushed into more pills !!
- A way to get more peace of mind about your healthcare. A visit is not rushed.
- A true “patient centered medical home”, with 1 doctor, not a clinic portrayed as such where you see the “available provider”.
- A way to know how better to take care of your illnesses when minor crises occur, so you feel more comfortable knowing what to do when changes arise.
- A more likely way that you will not have to spend your entire deductible of 1000-5000 per person in a given year.
- A way to know how much health expenses “really cost” and not inflated costs because of insurance billing. At our office , an EKG is 5 dollars, not 50 !!! A cholesterol test is about 6 dollars- not 40 !! And sometimes a CT, a sonogram or a MRI scan is cheaper for you if you don’t use your health insurance !! As we all all know, an aspirin does not really cost 10 dollars !!
- You may be able to live “off the grid” as far as your health information goes. Your health info will not be shared with insurers unless the health insurance is needed to pay for tests or treatments, specialists or hospitals you need. Remember, certain infections are government public health requirements to be reported, such as AIDS, syphilis.
- You can use a FSA/ Flexible Spending Account to pay for DPC costs (unless your employer forbids it), but HSAs/ Health Savings Accounts are not allowed to pay for DPC until the IRS changes its rules.
- DPC has been shown to lower total healthcare costs by 20-25% both through prevention of chronic illnesses, more emphasis on lifestyles changes and by the reduction of administrative expenses, since there are no insurance claims filed for routine healthcare needs.
WHAT DPC IS NOT:
- It is not a place where when you come in you have copays or additional charges for my time, your monthly membership fee covers the time you need already.
- It is not a “village” of people, multiple providers, insurers and health systems that are almost always well-intentioned but often impersonal and frequently provide conflicting and/ or confusing information and recommendations. This “umbrella of care” is being touted more and more as the “fix” for our healthcare “problems” but as time goes on many, if not most people feel more and more angry and frustrated from having to put up with the current system.
- It is not a replacement for all specialist care. There are a number of conditions that require a specialist.
- It is not a guarantee you will not need your own personal health insurance. You need insurance mostly so that you won’t go broke from medical events such as wrecks, hospital stays, emergencies, surgeries, etc… A lot of people have health insurance, but can’t get the “healthcare” they want from a doctor. Sometimes it is because of high deductibles, other times because a health insurance plan cannot attract enough qualified doctors to be desirable. With DPC, you really can “keep your doctor”.
- It is not a place where there are layers of people to get through to see the doctor.
- It is not a place where bills are confusing, or costs hidden.
- It is not a practice that can order tests or referrals for Health Maintenance Insurance organizations(HMOs). The HMO has a monopoly over what it covers for their members—all doctors, tests, referrals have to be within their narrow network for that type of insurance to pay for it. This includes so-called MEDICARE ADVANTAGE PLANS, which are really HMOs. If you are on traditional Medicare than you can see whom you want to see. So for Medicare eligible people in my practice, I would suggest traditional Medicare with possibly a supplement to cover medications, hospitals, specialists and emergency care. I will cover the primary care.
- DPC is not an insurance company, I can only do what a family doctor with enough time can do. If you want an insurance product to wrap around my DPC practice, please consider a healthshare ministry such as Samaritan Ministries, or Medishare. You will soon see insurance companies come out with products to complement DPC style practices. The cost of these DPC friendly policies are likely to be lower than marketplace or Obamacare type policies, since DPC patients have 20-25% lower healthcare costs due to good and more easily accessible primary care doctors.