“Why don’t you opt for a Direct Primary Care membership plan?” said your cocky neighbor who, apart from being an interfering nuisance, looks really healthy and happy while speaking about her new direct primary care physician. “No tedious waiting times or half-attentive consultations,” yes, we are still skeptical, but please, go on, “and no insurance, either!”
Picture this: You’re waiting at your primary physician’s clinic for a routine check-up; you’ve been waiting for your turn for the past 3 hours but the receptionist is not being helpful in telling you when you might get your chance. Your toddler is causing mayhem in the waiting room – in fact, all the other toddlers who have been accompanied by their guardians are bent upon turning the clinic upside down.
So, you get frustrated and leave – who cares about the appointment anymore? It was just a routine follow-up, right? But then, your neighbor’s voice begins to echo in your head – in particular, the bit where they suggest you switch to Direct Primary Healthcare.
If you think securing a successful appointment with your primary care doctor is challenging, imagine the ordeal your physician has to go through while trying to tend to a huge panel of patients day after day.
Exhausting on both sides, isn’t it?
To battle this exhaustion, some genius (Qliance, if you must know) thought of putting the Direct Primary Care model into action. As the word direct suggests, this type of primary care model allows patients to engage with their physicians directly without any interference from an insurance broker (or a pushy neighbor). Care to elaborate?
What is DPC?
Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a subscription-based healthcare model that offers a range of holistic primary care services – all under the umbrella of a fixed monthly or annual price. The DPC framework comprises a patient-centric practice and strives to promote patient engagement values by strengthening the physician-patient bond.
By being patient-centric, DPC’s core principles aim to ease the struggles of its committed patients with the provision of preventive healthcare which should be the bottom line of each primary care visit.
The DPC model portrays a simple philosophy that seeks to highlight the basic principle around healthcare – to diagnose, prevent, and treat illnesses with ensuring quality and maintaining patient autonomy and confidentiality.
How DPC Differs from Traditional Healthcare
Traditional primary care operates on fee-for-service criteria which, as opposed to Direct Primary Care, ends in high deductibles and copays. The Direct Primary Care model provides an alternative solution to paying high premiums for traditional primary care services.
Each Direct Primary Care practice takes your age and demographics in the ground before setting you up for a subscription plan. For instance, if you are signing up for DPC with your family, you might be offered a family discount or perhaps, a discounted membership plan for your toddler or baby. Apart from subscribing to a series of carefully chosen services, patients can opt for specific plans that also help them to get lab and imaging tests for a fixed price as well as easy medicine refills.
In DPC, there is no room for a third party – specifically, an insurance company. DPC reinforces the idea of preventive and primary healthcare by helping patients focus only on their health without having to worry about high premiums or copays to their insurance company.
Benefits of DPC for Patients
Priceless Medicine Refills
Medications come with a price – either it is your life or wallet – which can lead to health negligence and consequently, a bitter outcome if avoided. Your traditional primary care clinic dispenses medicines via its pharmacy – every time you ask for a refill, you would have to take a trip downtown to get your medications in due time.
Not to mention the pricey co-pay bill which you’ll receive after every refill; if you take multiple medications, paying hefty co-pays might urge you to skip a drug or two sometime, which is not a solution for preventing crises in healthcare.
Your insurance company might provide you with medicines bearing an expensive brand name, whilst a cheaper option exists in the market. DPC can take care of this back-to-back expensive transaction by dispensing medicines which they probably (usually) get at wholesale price from handpicked vendors.
Dispensing medicines in Direct Primary Care is as easy as handing out scout cookies. Most of the physicians have access to basic medications within their clinics which makes dispensing medications then and there easy and feasible.
Emergency rooms and urgent care facilities carry an aura of morbidity and if we should mention bankruptcy. You are so involved in taking care of your loved ones that you forget to deal with the insurance company or ask the hospital about the cost of expenditures. You are thrown a co-pay of $1000 along your way – and the fun part is, that is only so that the doctor can see and tend to you.
At times, the insurance companies aren’t clear about their care policies – or intentionally leave that part out while luring you in towards their premium plans. In addition, urgent care facilities might have a slip-up regarding your insurance health plan information or file paperwork for services that your insurance provider doesn’t cover.
All this expenditure for just a single day of healthcare – all of which could have been prevented had the patient received prompt ‘preventive’ healthcare.
While the ER should be reserved for life-threatening emergencies, it is often riddled with patients who can be managed in primary care facilities.
The ER is frequented by colds, coughs, headaches, earaches, ankle sprains and strains, urinary tract infections, and other non-life-threatening illnesses. But why? As getting an urgent appointment with their primary care doctor would be close to impossible, people prefer going to the ER to get themselves checked and treated promptly.
But DPC can reduce these noncritical visits to the ER and reserve the time for patients who actually need immediate care. A majority of DPC clinics make use of an electronic communication system that allows the patient to be in contact with their doctor directly. If an urgent visit is warranted, your DPC provider can ask you to make a trip for a consultation as soon as possible.
Despite the fact that urgent care facilities are already up and running for managing non-critical cases, they cannot serve as an alternative to primary care. Urgent care can be considered a time-restraint solution for controlling or tending to the symptoms of an injury or illness. DPC, on the other hand, provides primary care in addition to tending to non-critical illnesses or injuries as well.
For instance, instead of running to the ER for your earache, you could simply talk to your Direct Primary Care provider and visit them for urgent management. Having your medical history in hand will help your DPC not only manage your symptoms but also diagnose any hidden illness contributing to recurrent ear infections.
A Little Doctor-Me Time
Direct Primary Care is based purely on a subscription model which offers membership plans to a fixed number of patients on a monthly basis. For instance, some DPC practices have a policy of having only a panel of 600 patients per physician instead of dealing with thousands as in traditional primary care.
DPC facilitates the welfare of chronic patients by keeping their appointments and progress in check. It minimizes waiting times by fixing a timely appointment with your physician; in this way, you can reach the DPC practice on time without having to wait endlessly for your turn.
Instead of only 10 minutes of patient-doctor time, DPC allows patients to book extended visits of over 30 minutes making it easier to convey their concerns and symptoms without missing any details.
The Role of Insurance in DPC
As per Business Insider, healthcare insurance is like car insurance; it is only there when you really need it. You would need your car insurance coverage only if your car gets in an accident, not when you are going for a routine tune-up or oil change.
Similarly, you don’t need insurance to pay for primary care services; but you do need coverage for life-threatening emergencies or hospital admissions.
Direct Primary Care lets you save thousands spent on primary care visits by allowing you to opt for an honest, fixed, and reliable basic healthcare membership plan.
In summary, focus here:
- The DPC model doesn’t let an insurance company act as an intermediary while dealing with the logistics and finances in primary care.
- In simpler words, you don’t need to file for health insurance for primary care. as well as for people with chronic illnesses and regular primary care visits where paying expensive copays.
- DPC is ideal for the uninsured and people with chronic illnesses who have to frequent their primary care clinics for regular follow-ups.
- DPC lets you reserve your income for an insurance plan that deals solely with the costs involved in life-threatening emergencies, hospitalizations, and in-patient management.
Importance of Building a Strong Relationship With Your Patient in Direct Primary Care
Communication is necessary for building and strengthening any relationship. Similarly, communication and satisfaction are reciprocal in establishing trust in a patient-physician relationship. A strong bond between the patient and doctor results in positive patient outcomes and eventually, improved health. It is a codependent relationship: the doctors rely on their patients to fuel their practice and patients rely on the doctors to treat them well.
Traditional Primary Care lacks in providing optimum care to patients, especially if there are hundreds to go through every week. The physician is burnt out by the time their daily hours of primary care practice end. Burnouts can also manifest in irritation and restlessness leading to the foundation of the commonest primary care complaint: ‘The doctor was extremely rude and inattentive…’
The doctor can’t help it; that is, if they choose to stay in the traditional primary care setting. But, Direct Primary Care can help the doctor and the patient overcome their struggles in building an honest and trustworthy relationship.
Attention and Communication
The doctor needs to talk to the patient in the language they understand. We are not advising doctors to learn as many languages as possible, but to pay attention to their body language while talking to their patients.
The DPC provider should create a safe, nonjudgmental environment for the patient so that they can put their trust in the doctor and be confident. The DPC physician should also not intrude when their patient is still speaking. Being an avid listener is the first key to being attentive and maintaining a conversation.
Fortunately, in DPC practices, a physician can focus on their patient without being haunted by a ticking clock every ten minutes. More patient-physician time can help the doctor to listen and respond to their patient’s concerns and medical history more proactively. The next time the patient comes in, the
Patient Education and Awareness
Trust is not only built by communication but also by being honest throughout the relationship. A good doctor doesn’t keep any medical information hidden from their patient, no matter how hurtful it might be – the patient deserves to know the truth about their body.
The doctor should also educate the patient about any forthcoming medical therapies which might prove helpful in treating the patient. The patient or the caregiver should be educated about their disease so that they can adhere to medical advice and comply with the prescriptions. The doctor should also convey all possibilities of side effects and drug reactions that may occur when starting a new treatment regimen.
The Patient Philosophy of DPC
DPC grants you independence by preventing any third parties from coming in between your physician-patient relationship; choosing which primary care services you need; contacting and visiting your doctor directly whenever you may need them, and putting yourself first by paying heed to your health.
Let’s summarize the benefits of DPC if you find the aforementioned jargon a bit confusing to understand:
- DPC comprises a subscription-based membership model which charges a fixed price every month in exchange for healthcare services. For instance, for $99 at Manhattan Medical Arts, you can not only solicit basic healthcare services but also round off imaging and lab tests, and vaccinations with discounts. For extra healthcare services, you can choose or switch to a DPC plan that caters to most of your needs.
- DPC also offers an alternative solution to those pricey premiums you invest month after month in insurance. With its subscription-based membership model, it completely eliminates the need for patients to seek insurance in primary care. With insurers out of the way, patients can look forward to spending a fixed amount of money rather than being charged a fee for every service.
- DPC strengthens the relationship you have with your primary care provider. Not only do you get the feasibility to book an urgent care appointment but also have easy access to TeleHealth wherever and whenever you require.
- DPC helps you to escape the agony of waiting for your appointments by not having you on standby at all times. The ‘will the doctor understand my problem’ or ‘will I have enough time to engage my doctor’ questions can be forever put to rest. Not only do you get to avoid lengthy waiting times and the rush hour at the clinic, but you can also finally look forward to your extended consultation in peace.
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.
About The AuthorDr. Syra Hanif M.D.
Board Certified Primary Care Physician
Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.Read More