In a world created by non-physician administrators where 10 minutes per patient, 30 patients per day, little ancillary support and the constant threat of litigation is mixed with declining reimbursements and high debt loads, it comes as little surprise that primary care physician burnout is among the highest of any occupation.
And even as primary care struggles to keep its footing, it’s being called on to do more than ever before: coordinate care for an aging population beset by chronic disease, improve the overall wellness of the population, control costs and eliminate waste and fraud. These tasks validate the importance and necessity of primary care.
To make matters worse, a 2016 survey of more than 17,000 U.S. physicians found that 48% plan to reduce hours, retire, take a non-clinical job, switch to concierge medicine or take other steps to cut back on the number of patients they see. Furthermore, 80% of physicians are overextended or at capacity, with no time to see additional patients. While these results may be dispiriting to physicians and the future of healthcare, there is a new model of primary care that has potential to save the healthcare system.
Direct Primary Care: The Oldest New Idea in Medicine
Lack of personalized care from doctors is one of the most common patient grievances today. However, it would be unjust to put the entire blame on doctors; when you have nearly 5,000 patients to attend to and limited time with each. Thankfully, direct primary care (DPC) can save physicians from burnout while at the same time improving patient access to care.
Direct primary care is a subset model of the retainer-based practice framework for primary care practices. The defining characteristic of a DPC practice is that it offers patients the full range of comprehensive primary services, including routine care, regular checkups, preventive care, and care coordination in exchange for a flat, monthly retainer fee. DPC practices are distinguished from other retainer-based care models, such as concierge care, by lower retainer fees, which cover at least a portion of primary care services provided in the DPC practice.
Healthcare through the DPC model is aimed to ensure a successful encounter between the physician and patient. By enabling the physician to lessen his practice size from 3,000 patients to 600, it frees much of the doctor's time to be utilized for the desired personalized and detailed care for the patients, resulting in happier patients as well as improved clinical and non-clinical outcomes. DPC also saves the physicians from wasting too much time with billing paperwork so that they can spend more time with their patients.