A common theme in medicine is that many patients worry about their health. For patients, this can take many forms. Some patients avoid the doctor, deciding “what I don’t know won’t hurt.” Others worry for days or months leading up to their check-ups, worrying their doctor will “find something bad.” And, still others go in to see their doctors much more regularly in hopes of getting answers to their questions to help calm their fears.
Have you ever had to call your traditional primary care doctor's office for a general question? It probably goes something like this:
Patient calls at 9am, and before getting a word out:
Receptionist: “Thanks for calling Slow Family Practice, please hold.”
10 minutes later: “How may I help you?”
Patient at 9:10am: “Hi, I have a question for Dr. Too Busy and was hoping to speak with him.”
Receptionist: “Let me check with his nurse to see if he’s available.”
10 minutes later: “Dr. Too Busy is currently with patients, but I can have him call you back when he’s available.”
Patient at 9:20am: “Ok, please have him do that.
Several hours later:
Nurse: “Hi this is Dr. Too Busy’s nurse returning your phone call.”
Patient at 12:30pm: “Oh hi, I had a question about a rash that I’ve had and my blood sugars today.”
Nurse: “Ok, well why don’t we schedule an appointment for you.”
Patient: “That would be fine, though Dr. Too Busy can probably help me over the phone.”
Nurse: “Well we really need to see you in the office. He has an opening 2 weeks from today!”
While we have many patients in Direct Primary Care Practices, like here at Direct Doctors, who do not have many or any chronic medical conditions, we also have a number who do. Patients dealing with chronic illnesses or unexplained symptoms often feel bounced around from specialist to specialist, test to test, either without answers or without organization.
While we obviously believe that DPC is the future of primary care in the United States, we do think that insurance plays a vital role in our health care system. Unfortunately, health insurance is so expensive that many folks think that spending more for a direct primary care membership is not something they can afford. This is often not the case, especially for patients who get insurance through an employer or buy it themselves directly from the insurance company or on the exchange.
Whether you’re in your 20s, 50s, or 70s, you may have a parent (or two!) in need of assistance to maintain their health and independence as they age. Many patients are living longer now and the trend has returned to keeping those folks at home as long as possible. We are here to help.
Direct Primary Care practices, like Direct Doctors, do home visits to keep patients healthier longer while at home. We also offer home visits to assisted living facilities, dementia/memory care units, and even some nursing homes.
As parents age, they tend to have a harder time with mobility. Leaving the house, especially in the winter months may become dangerous. Getting to the doctor’s office, waiting in the waiting room chairs, sitting on the high exam table, and the return home may be enough to wipe your loved one out for days! We understand.
While some patients often think of preventive screenings for young and healthy individuals, much of our recommended screenings happen later in life. For older patients (50 and up) there is much to discuss when it comes to what screenings are appropriate for them. Unfortunately, in traditional primary care settings where visit times are quite short, these conversations rarely happen. Typically, a doctor tells a patient what to get and when without much discussion on personal preference, risk, age, family and personal history, etc. While not the best way to maintain a good doctor-patient relationship, this also often leads to over screening, as reported in a recent NY Times article.
Patients who join Direct Primary Care practices, like Direct Doctors, often express wonderment at how we are able to spend more time with our patients, never make them feel rushed, never make them wait, and get back to them quickly with answers to their questions. Here’s how we make this happen and why your typical primary care office cannot.
At Direct Primary Care practices across the country, doctors are breaking down the traditional barriers that are put up between patient and doctor. At Direct Doctors, while we are not concierge, our business model is simple. Patients pay a monthly fee directly to their doctor. The doctor pays overhead expenses to run the practice and then pays him/herself the rest. In this model, patients pay doctors directly and doctors can cut out the multitude of middlemen skimming off the top while expertly blocking access to your doctor ;).
As everyone knows, the cost of medical care continues to rise (except at Direct Primary Care practices!). A major portion of patient expenses often come from prescription medications. Consumer reports recently published an article highlighting this very thing. There are many reasons for the increasing drug costs (excessive markups, physician unawareness of pricing, cost shifting from employers to patients, etc), but at Direct Doctors we pay special attention to this part of our patients finances.
At Direct Doctors, like many other Direct Primary Care practices around the country, we work hard to make ourselves accessible to our patients. While we can’t guarantee 24/7 access, we do ensure our patients can reach us on our cell phones, can text us, and can even email us when they need to ask a question or run something by us - and by us, I mean one of the doctors! We also make sure patients can be seen when it is convenient for them and not 3 months from now.
A common question from our patients in their 60s and up is, “How could your practice at Direct Doctors actually make sense with my medicare?” It is a smart question. It’s important to understand how medicare works when you have a doctor, like Dr. Turshen or Dr. Hedde, who does not bill medicare (aka a doctor who is “opted out” of medicare).
At Direct Doctors, patients in the age group of 65 and above will pay a membership fee of $100 per month to have convenient access to their physician. They will be able to reach their primary care doctor when and how it works for them. They will avoid long wait times at the office or on the phone. And, they will have a meaningful relationship with a doctor who knows them well and spends the needed time listening to their needs.
Lauren Hedde, DO and Mark Turshen, MD are Family Physicians and Founders of Direct Doctors, Inc. a Direct Primary Care Practice.