If you’re someone who travels a lot for work or pleasure, or you just happen to find yourself on the rare trip, you may imagine a scenario where you fall ill and need care. You’re away from home and from your primary care doctor. You’re in an unfamiliar location where you don’t recognize the local medical options. This is a scenario many of us have experienced or at least have known someone who has.
What do YOU do when this happens? The most common answer is that you go to the local emergency room or urgent care. This may be fine OR it may result in a big bill or in care that is disjointed from your typical doctors. Disjointed care sometimes leads to patients being prescribed medications that cause side effects or interfere with existing medications or issues, which renders them in worse shape in the long run. If you don’t need to see a doctor at a more emergent setting, you may be charged a larger copay for having gone there instead of to primary care (even though you couldn’t get back home to do it!).
Doctor Google is great. When you’re in a pinch. No one is available to answer your medical question. You just can’t wait until Monday at 9am to call the office. If you could wait, you know you’ll be put on hold and won’t get a call back for hours - if you’re lucky. You know if you do get a call back, it will likely not be from YOUR doctor. So, why not just Google?
So let’s say you’re young and relatively healthy. You can’t remember the last time you went to a doctor for anything. You are not on any prescription medications and do not require many routine screenings at your age. You also have a busy career that makes the slog of a traditionally inefficient practice impossible to deal with but cannot imagine paying a monthly fee for a Direct Primary Care Practice… why would you do that?
Well I can think of a few reasons, actually. I bet if you think back over the past couple of years, something came up at one point that required a visit to a doctor. You probably went to an urgent care or ER since you had no established primary care doctor. It may have been for a laceration that needed a few stitches, or an ankle sprain while playing sports on the weekend, or a bad cold that you just could not shake at home and needed to be seen. All of these things can easily be handled by a primary care doc who is easily accessible and can see you that day. Without that access however, many patients have no choice but to visit a much more costly health care setting and spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on a one time visit fee. For this same cost, you can get several months to a year of direct access to your personal doctor. Many of our younger patients have high deductible plans. So even if they do not utilize our services frequently, they often save money by avoiding expensive health care costs.
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 ;).
Lauren Hedde, DO and Mark Turshen, MD are Family Physicians and Founders of Direct Doctors, Inc. a Direct Primary Care Practice.