Article update: To learn more about Trinity’s Direct Primary Care program please visit www.trinitydpc.com or call our DPC headquarters at 865-244-1800.
Two weeks ago we talked about the challenges of today’s medical care. Without repeating ourselves too much, it boils down to patients paying more and more for insurance that seems to cover less and less. At the same time we see ourselves giving more and more control of our care to insurance companies and government entities rather than leaving our health care decisions to ourselves and our physicians.
On the physician’s end there is the same sense of having medical decisions taken over by insurance companies and government entities that have never seen our patients. And these entities require us to spend ever greater amounts of time on bureaucratic and documentation chores which take us away from a direct focus on the care of our patients. So, can anything be done beyond going into a rant?
There are a number of things that can help. This week and again in two weeks I want to discuss two straightforward but exceedingly helpful responses to the problem. I believe they would help rescue us from drowning in cost-prohibitive and impersonal health care run by distant entities. This week, I’d like us to consider Direct Primary Care (DPC).
DPC practices are a growing part of the delivery of primary care – the routine preventive and sick care that for most people makes up about 80% of their medical care. DPC offices make agreements directly with their patients to provide care at a set price by cutting out the middleman of insurance. Because the extra time and overhead of dealing with insurance regulations and jumping through endless hoops and restrictions is eliminated, healthcare is able to be delivered efficiently, affordably (for about the price of a basic monthly cell phone contract), and personally. Less expensive catastrophic or major medical insurance to cover the possibility of hospitalization or expensive specialist visits is still encouraged.
DPC has been shown to provide superior health outcomes compared to traditional medical set-ups. This isn’t because DPC physicians are any smarter than those in traditional models; they simply have more time and less distractions from focusing directly on the patient and their needs. In DPC models visits are not only more focused on the patient, but are able to be longer and same or next day availability is easily arranged. These practices generally pre-negotiate less expensive x-ray, MRI and other imaging and are able to offer most routine labs, EKG and other basic primary care services at no additional cost.
In many ways, the advantages of DPC only make sense. Insurance is normally used for covering less likely but major events (as would be covered by catastrophic medical insurance). Routine primary medical care becomes tied up in knots and is far more expensive when insurance companies are put in charge of it.
So who does this really make sense for? Most people with a significant deductible (which is the vast majority of policies these days) will find DPC a very affordable, if not outright much less expensive, option. Of course for those with no insurance a DPC arrangement is an ideal solution.
Even for those on Medicare or the few who still have premium insurance plans covered by their work, DPC still makes sense. With their additional time to focus on prevention, wellness and complete patient care, even if there is (possibly) a slight increase in cost for these specific patient groups, the improvement in the health care experience, access, and outcomes still makes DPC a huge value.
Well there are more questions than we can tackle in such a brief article. But after looking at the DPC model for a long time and asking a lot of hard questions, I’m a huge fan. I love the opportunity of putting primary health care back in the hands of patients and their physicians while dramatically driving down its cost by taking out the middle men. It won’t fix every part of medical care, but it will go a long way in the right direction. I’m so convinced of this that we plan to change our Maryville office to this model January 1st of 2016 and I am greatly looking forward to taking a large step back in the direction of affordable, personalized patient care.