Direct primary care (DPC) is a relatively new model of practicing primary care that has grown significantly in the last several years. A lot more doctors are choosing to practice in this model, and more patients are learning about it and choosing it as well. So what is direct primary care and why does it work so well for doctors and patients?
Direct primary care practices contract directly with their patients under a membership model. This means that they do not bill insurances for their services- patients pay a monthly membership fee and are able to access the medical services they need when they need them (think of your Netflix subscription!). In most DPC practices there are no additional charges or co-pays for visits. Patients do not have to worry about surprise bills or waiting for a deductible to kick in. Many DPC practices also offer additional benefits such as in-house procedures, EKGs, and other tests, as well as discounts on outside lab testing. These financial benefits are often the focus of discussions of the benefits of DPC- the affordable access to healthcare helps patients save money on their care. However, there are a lot of other benefits to direct primary care!
Billing insurance companies requires a lot of administrative work from staff, which means insurance-based practices have to employ a lot more staff to do this work. This means their overhead costs are higher, and since they are paid per visit, they must schedule more visits to cover this overhead. Because of the membership model, practices are not dependent on booking as many patients as possible to keep their schedule packed. Doctors are able to keep their schedules relatively open so that patients can get same day and next day appointments when they are sick. Many DPC doctors also allow patients to contact them directly via text message and email, and offer an after hours line to reach them directly for urgent needs. Patients don't have to battle a phone tree to get in touch with their doctor with questions or concerns, so they can get the care they need when they need it.
More Time with your Doctor
The flexible scheduling that DPC allows means doctors not only have more availability to fit in same or next day appointments, but they can also schedule longer appointments with their patients. The average primary care doctor has a patient scheduled every 15 minutes, whereas the average DPC doctor schedules their patient for 30-60 minute visits (and often 90-120 minutes for new patients). In insurance-based practices, much of this visit time is spent focusing on the electronic medical record, making sure all the boxes are checked so that the insurance company will pay for the visit. In direct primary care practices, electronic health records are still often used, but the focus is on using them as a tool to document and provide care that is medically necessary, not just meeting insurance company requirements. Insurance companies often dictate what kind of care can be provided in each visit (for example, you can't discuss any medical concern during an annual physical or the insurance company will not longer count it as a physical and will charge the patient differently). None of these restrictions apply in direct primary care practices- the doctor and patient can choose to use their time together to meet the patient's needs at that moment.
In DPC practices, patients can directly contact their own personal physician, not whichever random doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant that happens to be working that day. This allows development of a strong physician-patient relationship. Seeing the same doctor each time means that the doctor knows the patient's history well and can make better diagnostic decisions, and can also work together with the patient to make a treatment plan that is personalized to them and fits their lifestyle. This means less unnecessary tests and prescriptions and more holistic treatment with a focus on prevention. This strong relationship also means doctors can more comfortably manage certain conditions virtually for patients they know well, so they may not need as many in-person appointments for follow-up.
With all of these benefits, it is easy to see why more and more patients are choosing direct primary care! Patients can benefit from the improved access, time, and relationship with their DPC doctor whether they have insurance or not.
If you are interested in experiencing this kind of care- now you can! Vida Family Medicine is currently accepting patients of all ages for our direct primary care membership. Signing up to join as a member is easy! Our online registration form is available here and takes just a few minutes to complete. The form will collect your basic information as well as payment information (credit/debit card or bank details) in order to create your account. However, you will not be billed until your membership is confirmed and you schedule your first appointment. If you are not sure you are ready to sign up or still have questions, you can schedule a free Meet and Greet to have all your questions answered and decide if our practice is a good fit for you.