By Dr. Heidi Larson
It’s no secret that access to healthcare in the U.S. is a problem, and sometimes just finding a doctor is a struggle for many Americans.
When you think about your healthcare and what you reasonably expect from your doctor, consider these questions:
- When was the last time your doctor picked up the phone when you called?
- How long does it take you to get in to see your doctor?
- Do you feel rushed through your doctors’ visits?
- Do your visits with your doctor feel transactional?
- Does your doctor know you as a person?
If most of your responses are negative, consider switching to direct primary care for the positive experience you are seeking.
What Is Direct Primary Care?
When someone needs medical assistance for a new or persistent health issue, they often go to their primary care physician (PCP), also known as a general practitioner or family doctor. This doctor is the first point of contact for patients and handles a wide range of services, from screening for and early detection of diseases to managing patients with long-term conditions.
When required, PCPs help coordinate treatment with other healthcare practitioners and send patients to specialists. For optimal health, illness prevention and cost control in the healthcare system, primary care is crucial.
What is direct primary care? Direct primary care was introduced in the late 1990s in response to patient expectations not being met. The goal is to provide high-quality, personalized health care for an affordable monthly or annual fee.
At my practice, for example, a monthly membership fee, which costs less than $100, allows for unlimited in-person access to me via phone, text or email. Simple questions can be addressed in real time. Visits are unhurried, and they take place at your convenience either in my office, at your home or at your place of employment.
The focus of this type of care is on building a strong, trusting relationship between you and your doctor, so you can achieve better health and a strong sense of well-being. Doctors like myself enjoy the direct primary care model because it removes the burden and hassle of dealing with insurance companies, which means more time and energy can be invested in developing relationships with patients.
Why Direct Primary Care (DPC) Is the Future of Healthcare
Improving healthcare in the U.S. calls for a pivot in how primary care is financed and delivered. The current fee-for-service model only emphasizes the cost of delivering care without accounting for the value of care patients should receive.
As stated in a publication by the American Academy of Family Physicians, “This new financial paradigm translates to increased payments to address the social drivers of health and disease prevention and to support high-value community resources (e.g., a community walking program), care coordination, and, most importantly, the relationship between the patient and physician.”
Direct Primary Care Pros and Cons
Like other models of healthcare, DPC has its pros and cons. Some of the benefits of direct primary care include:
Patients Get Care From Their Doctor Where and When They Need It
With direct primary care, patients see their doctor whenever and wherever they need to.
With unrestricted office visits, phone conversations and emails, patients can get medical treatment from their doctor in a variety of settings, including at their doctor’s office, the patient’s house, and even other locations when they are away from home.
Visits Are Comprehensive and Not Rushed
Direct primary care differs from the standard fee-for-service healthcare model in that it allows for longer, more in-depth sessions with your doctor. As a DPC doctor, I spend quality time with my patients because I have intentionally scheduled extra time for appointments and consultations. This allows for a more in-depth evaluation of my patients’ health status and the creation of an individualized treatment strategy.
As a result, I can concentrate on delivering excellent care rather than seeing a large number of patients to sustain profitability, since I’m not dependent on insurance payments for every appointment. The extra time I am able to give to each individual patient is critical for improving health outcomes.
Cutting Out Red Tape and Middlemen Means You Get High-Quality Healthcare
By eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and intermediaries, direct primary care ultimately offers patients better healthcare overall.
As a DPC doctor, I am freed up from the administrative responsibilities and complex billing processes that are related to working with insurance companies and other third-party payers, allowing me to concentrate on providing the care my patients really need to achieve optimal physical health and emotional well-being.
Additionally, the direct primary care approach can reduce patients’ out-of-pocket healthcare expenses by preventing significant health issues that might otherwise demand more costly treatments and/or hospitalization. What’s more, direct primary care saves money when paired with a high-deductible health plan because patients are not paying hundreds of dollars in deductibles and co-pays for brief visits with their primary care physicians.
When compared to typical fee-for-service healthcare models that are often weighed down by red tape, bureaucracy and intermediaries, direct primary care can provide consumers with a more patient-centered, comprehensive, and inexpensive option.
In a Direct Primary Care Model, Many Urgent Concerns Can Be Addressed Efficiently in Real Time
Under a direct primary care model, critical issues are typically dealt with quickly and effectively in real time. I place a premium on accessibility and rapid response times for my patients, as opposed to conventional fee-for-service models, which can mandate that they book appointments or be forced to wait hours in an emergency room for urgent care.
I set aside time in my calendar for same-day and next-day appointments to facilitate quick treatment of patients with acute or urgent health needs.
I also place an emphasis on early intervention and prevention, which can help diagnose and treat health issues before they get worse or need more extensive care. Because of this, better health outcomes and reduced healthcare costs are possible.
Direct Primary Care Doctors Coordinate With Specialists and Other Healthcare Providers
Direct primary care providers place an emphasis on primary care, but they also know it’s crucial to work with qualified specialists and other medical professionals to make sure their patients get the best possible treatment when they need it.
Because I have more personal contact with my patients, I can advocate for them while coordinating treatment with specialists and other providers. By providing a thorough medical history and communicating this information to my patients’ other providers, I can contribute to the management of their overall care and reduce the likelihood of unnecessary tests, procedures and/or medications. Thirty years of experience practicing in Southern Maine means my patients benefit from the long-term relationships I have built with my specialty colleagues. Most patients get premium service with the best local specialists because I pick up the phone and advocate on their behalf.
Ideal for Patients With Serious Health Issues
Direct primary care is the ideal choice for people who have many serious health issues or who need frequent attention from a specialized professional. The personal touch and quick response from a direct primary care physician such as myself is even more critical for those who are home-bound or require palliative and hospice care. My years of Army training equipped me with special medical skills and experience that I leverage regularly to my patients’ benefit.
Insurance Coverage Still Required
Direct Primary Care is not insurance. Patients still need to purchase insurance that covers emergencies, hospitalizations, surgeries, and specialty care. Most everything else you can think of is taken care of under your membership with me as your direct primary care physician. No more long waits or expensive charges for basic services, including procedures. Knowing everything is taken care of gives my patients peace of mind.
Is Direct Primary Care Worth It?
Patients looking for accessible, individualized and reasonably priced healthcare may find direct primary care to be a good fit for them. Via direct primary care, patients can develop a trusting relationship with their primary care physician, who, in turn, can provide them with a full spectrum of care, such as routine checkups, treatment for chronic conditions, after-hours care and more.
When debating whether direct primary care is worthwhile, you should consider the following factors:
Cost-Effectiveness: Direct primary care offers lower costs than conventional fee-for-service models that charge for each visit or treatment, since direct primary care providers typically charge only a monthly or yearly fee. Furthermore, because DPC doctors place an emphasis on preventive treatment, the overall healthcare costs for the patient are decreased by avoiding the onset of more significant health issues that could lead to costly tests and long-term treatments for complications.
Accessibility: Direct primary care physicians provide flexible appointment scheduling (including same-day or next-day appointments) and direct connection to the doctor by phone, email, or text message to improve accessibility and convenience. When was the last time you had your doctor’s cell phone number? I tell my patients, “You are never bothering me!”, and I mean that.
Personalization: Direct primary care physicians can devote more time to each patient, create individualized treatment regimens, and foster stronger interpersonal bonds with direct primary care members. I am licensed in all four Northern New England States and currently have patients in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts.
Comprehensiveness: Preventive care, chronic disease management, urgent care and other vital healthcare treatments and tests are just some of the many services that direct primary care providers provide to their patients.
Quality Care: Direct primary care providers place a premium on providing high-quality treatment by eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy and intermediaries that exist in conventional healthcare delivery systems. The increased emphasis on relationship development by direct primary care providers creates better health outcomes and greater patient satisfaction.
Reputation, Experience and Community Relationships Are Important
As a direct primary care physician, I rely on word-of-mouth and goodwill to acquire new patients. Here are some recent comments from patients who have used my services that may help you in deciding whether direct primary care and my services are right for you:
“[Dr. Larson’s] advice and insight are spot on, and she does a fantastic job of explaining her thinking to make sure you understand things. Additionally, she makes communication with her effortless. You can send messages through her website and text her with your questions or concerns. I highly recommend her to anyone looking for a highly professional and friendly doctor!” — Dave, Patient
“Dr. Larson is the most professional and most caring doctor I’ve ever had. She always responds to me quickly and is available whenever I need her… Instead of just telling me what to do, she listens to me and takes my wants and needs into consideration, so we can decide together on the treatment that’s best for me. I trust her implicitly and have recommended her to friends for their primary care needs. I’m so glad I found Dr. Larson!” — Catherine, Patient
Get in Touch Today to See What Direct Primary Care Can Do for You!
I offer healthcare made simple by the direct primary care model. Let’s walk through your healthcare journey — together. Get in touch with me today by calling (207) 233-2502 or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Author
Heidi M. Larson, M.D. is one of only nine private Maine physicians to earn three blue ribbons of distinction for excellence in outcomes for care in the treatment of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and depression. Her mission as a family medicine physician is to provide exceptional, comprehensive health care to the whole family in and around Scarborough, Maine, based on trusting personal relationships with patients, their families, and the community. Dr. Larson is licensed in MA, ME, NH, and VT
Dr. Larson is proud to be affiliated with the New England Direct Primary Care Alliance: “Wicked awesome doctors taking care of Wicked awesome patients”.