Health care and how individuals receive it has been at the forefront of public concern for many years. Now, more than ever, a priority should be placed on discovering amenable solutions to address the incomprehensible challenges impacting this nation’s health care system. I believe that direct primary care (DPC) holds the potential to improve the way Americans access and experience health care. An article published by Medical Economics says DPC memberships are seeing an average annual growth of 36 percent, reaching a total growth rate of 241 percent from 2017-2021.
DPC has been around for many years. It is gaining momentum as a viable alternative to the traditional fee-for-service health care system. DPC shifts the focus from the complications of insurance billing to the heart of health care itself – the doctor-patient relationship. Here’s why DPC deserves our attention and support:
Patient-centered care. DPC puts patients first. In a traditional health care system, patients can often feel neglected and lost in a maze of paperwork. DPC changes that. It provides patients with a direct and personal relationship with a primary care physician. Doctors can spend more time listening to patients and understanding their concerns. This approach enhances the physician’s knowledge of the patient’s health history and lifestyle to deliver personalized care. This open dialogue encourages patients to continue regular visits with a physician, leading to routine health monitoring that can be beneficial in the early detection and treatment of serious issues.
Accessibility. One of the most frustrating things about scheduling an appointment with a doctor is the lack of availability on a physician’s schedule. Oftentimes, individuals must wait weeks if not months to be seen. DPC removes that barrier. An advantage of DPC is that a member can see a physician usually within a few days. This ensures that individuals and families can access health care quickly and without the fear of navigating the claims process, receiving surprise bills, and the need for extensive insurance coverage. When coupled with an offering of virtual care, it’s a model that makes health care accessible and affordable for everyone.
Preventive care. With improved access to physicians, DPC improves the frequency with which patients see a physician. Proactive monitoring of their health can reduce their health care costs down the road. Through DPC, members receive regular check-ups, and screenings, to help guide them through and keep them informed about their personal well-being. Continual monitoring of chronic health conditions and the discovery of serious health issues, before they become severe, helps them avoid costly treatment and possible hospitalizations, a cost no one wants to incur.
Quality of care. Unlike traditional health care where doctors are overwhelmed with processing patients quickly, in a DPC model, primary care physicians have the flexibility to spend more time with their patients. It allows them time to truly engage and delve into their concerns and ailments. This leads to more accurate diagnoses, strategic treatment plans, and improved patient outcomes. When doctors are not burdened by paperwork and insurance requirements, they can concentrate on providing an enhanced patient experience.
Cost-effectiveness. DPC is an affordable option. When you consider the cost of one urgent care visit or emergency room visit, often in the hundreds of dollars, the cost of a one-year DPC membership is negligible. According to the Society of Actuaries Report, Millman Study, DPC members experience approximately 40 percent fewer emergency room visits than those in traditional plans.
Enhanced doctor-patient relationship. As previously mentioned, DPC fosters a strong doctor-patient relationship built on trust and communication. Patients have more time with their primary care provider. The access to care is enhanced. DPC leads to extended appointment times, minimal wait times, and a more intimate relationship with the health care provider.
Reduced administrative burden. In a fee-for-service model, health care providers are burdened with dealing with insurance companies and coding complexities. This can lead to “bad debt.” That debt is made up of two components: insurance companies reevaluating charges at a significantly reduced rate or patients not paying their share of the bill. DPC eliminates the claims process and allows doctors to focus on what they do best, providing medical care.
It’s important to note that DPC does not replace health insurance but is a great complement to traditional insurance health care plans. Patients still need insurance for specialized care, hospitalizations, and emergencies. However, by covering primary care through a DPC model, we can make health care more accessible, efficient, and affordable.
I’ve seen firsthand the positive impact of DPC on individuals, families, and employers. Our commitment to this model stems from our belief that it aligns with our mission to make quality health care accessible to all. It’s time for health care stakeholders, policymakers, and communities to come together and support the growth of direct primary care as a crucial part of the solution to our health care challenges. By doing so, we can build a health care system that is patient-centered, cost-effective, and sustainable for generations to come.
Andy Bonner is the president, CEO, and co-founder, Healthcare2U. Andy’s passion for solving the health care challenges facing Americans today stems from a successful battle with cancer in 2006. While Andy’s journey is a fortunate one, it set him on a path to analyze how primary care and wellness are delivered. His journey led to the creation in 2013 of Healthcare2U, which provides affordable membership-based primary medical care, wellness, and chronic disease management. Andy is dedicated to improving the quality and accessibility of affordable health care by developing innovative services and cost structures that challenge the traditional models of how programs are purchased and consumed.