A new health care model is growing in popularity across the country. Frustrated by insurance complexities, endless paperwork and limited face-to-face time with patients, physicians are abandoning the traditional primary care model for a newer, more direct form of primary care. It's called direct primary care and it has the potential to significantly improve and possibly save modern health care.
Direct primary care completely abandons insurance billing, which has caused unnecessary agony amongst all primary care physicians. In replacement of insurance, patients pay a pre-set monthly fee regardless of the number of monthly visits or other encounters the patient has with the physician.
Instead of rushing through a visit in 10 minutes, patients are allocated the time needed to fully comprehend their medical issues and can make appropriate recommendations, including shared decision-making. With fewer patients, the physician can spend more time on each visit and get to know patients well. The doctor no longer feels a need to run from room to room, seeing patients on a tight schedule just to maintain stable revenues for the practice. Consequently, physician satisfaction also increases significantly.
Related article: How Direct Primary Care Reduces the Cost of Care
When doctors have high job satisfaction they are likely to provide a higher quality of care, which directly benefits patients and society by reducing costs and improving health.
For patients with chronic health care needs such as diabetes, congestive heart failure or asthma, the unrestricted access to a primary care provider has dramatic affects on the health of the patient. All of this probably sounds crazy, but it’s true.
Currently, the only way a physician can get paid by insurance and Medicare/Medicaid is to see patients in the office, which more often than not means a large chunk of your valuable time. But, often the problem is simple and could be handled in a few minutes with direct communication. Doctors aren't forced to see a high number of patients to pay their overhead, and will therefore be available to answer patients directly, anytime by personal cell phone, text, or email.
It has been studied that patients enrolled in direct primary care experience a 50% reduction in emergency department visits, specialist visits, advance radiologic testing, and surgical procedures compared to patients still enrolled in traditional primary care. The only number that increased is the number of primary care office visits, which more than doubled from an average of 2 to an average of 4 per year.
Some health policymakers are encouraged by this trend. They think an increase of direct primary care doctors could lead to better health care in the U.S., which has the highest costs and some of the worst outcomes of any wealthy nation.
Direct primary care is affordable for everyone and might even be the salvation of the American health-care system.
Is direct primary care right for you?