Patients are getting frustrated with our healthcare system. Office visits are short, scheduling an appointment is a pain, copays continue to rise, visits seem increasingly impersonal, and the list goes on and on. Direct primary care aims to change that.
Fifty years ago, primary care was recognized as being vital in promoting overall health to the general population. Unfortunately, with more and more physicians focusing on specialties, there has been a growing void where most healthcare delivery occurs— in the community—not in hospitals or specialty clinics.
Having more specialists is great for folks who have a rare or ongoing chronic issue, but less than ideal for the vast majority of us.
Thankfully, there’s a growing number of physicians today that are determined to bring back the original intention of what patient care once was—patient-focused, convenient, and cost-effective—with the goal of improving a patient’s overall health.
What is Direct Primary Care?
Direct Primary Care (DPC) simplifies the doctor/patient relationship, stripping out the middleman and making it all about the patient and what they need. Rather than accepting insurance, DPCs charge a monthly membership fee. DPC members usually receive unlimited and direct access to the provider, longer appointment times, and comprehensive coordination of care. Membership may also include other perks like lower-cost lab tests and less expensive prescription medications.
Why is Direct Primary Care a game changer?
Thanks to having fewer patients, DPC practitioners are able to take more time during appointments and truly get to know the individual patient. This allows them the opportunity to better manage chronic conditions, resolve acute issues more quickly, and provide more individualized information and education on how they can live healthier lifestyles.
The membership model that most DPC clinics utilize lets patients make the right decisions for their own health. By taking health insurance out of the equation, complexities and roadblocks like billing codes, insurance coverages, and benefit schedules are no longer a factor. A growing number of DPC practices are also embracing conveniences like virtual appointments and online booking, which make connecting with your doctor even easier.
What are the benefits of DPC?
While the services you receive when you join a DPC clinic can vary, most offer a wide variety of amenities. With most DPC offices, you can receive wellness care, basic procedures, and preventative services either in person or via virtual visits. Some also include various specialty tests and surgeries, but others don’t so be sure to ask questions so you understand exactly what will be covered prior to joining.
Many DPC clinics offer services such as:
- Unlimited office and/or virtual visits
- Unlimited time with your physician
- House calls
- No copays
- After-hours access to your physician during nights and weekends
- Next-day, or even same-day, appointments
- Low-cost medications
- In-house testing
- Lab discounts
- Basic procedures and biopsies
How can DPC benefit businesses?
DPC can be a lever to help control overall costs while improving employee satisfaction with their care. Companies that adopt a direct primary care model can benefit in a number of ways. Utilizing an employee assistance program like the Health Access membership can be an affordable way to take advantage of the direct primary care model.
Since DPC clinics operate on a flat monthly fee basis, the cost isn’t generally susceptible to large annual premium increases like traditional health insurance. Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid the dreaded annual renewal time? When a DPC is packaged with something like a self-funded plan, a high-deductible health plan, or a medical cost-sharing plan, the overall cost savings for employers can be significant when compared to a conventional copay-driven health plan.
Better benefits = better retention.
The monthly rate most DPC clinics charge is incredibly reasonable and can help both large and small companies expand the benefits they offer their employees. Larger companies are able to expand their benefits package to include unlimited access to doctors with no copays. Small companies, who may not be able to provide health insurance coverage at all, are able to deliver valuable healthcare benefits to their employees. No matter what size business we’re talking about, this helps to attract and retain quality employees.
Less sick days.
Because DPC members can more often than not grab same-day or next-day appointments, it can be considerably easier and quicker for employees to see their practitioner when issues come up. And, because there are no copays or deductibles, they are more likely to actually make appointments when they need to. Ultimately, this results in happier, healthier employees missing less time at work.
How to find a DPC clinic.
If you’re interested in finding a DPC clinic near you, these resources can help you locate a direct primary care clinic in your area:
While certainly not an ideal solution for everyone, a DPC membership can be an excellent option for those who are looking to take charge of their own healthcare. Regular, consistent guidance from a physician who truly knows you can be invaluable in achieving and maintaining optimal health. Direct primary care is going full circle, embracing a doctor-patient relationship that is personal, unrestricted, honest, and comprehensive. This return to relationship-based healthcare removes the middleman (insurance) and makes pricing straightforward, reasonable, and transparent (which it should be).