There are a lot of questions about what DPC is and what it isn’t. I’m going to provide a brief overview for those who need clarity.
I’d like to begin by painting a picture of today’s current model. A patient comes into a doctor’s office, pays a co-pay, and sees the physician (who generally is running late, looks exhausted and mainly is focusing on their computer) for about 10-15 minutes. The patient is quickly shown out of the office after being given some paperwork, possibly a few prescriptions and maybe even a referral or two to specialists. The patient generally leaves with unanswered questions and some frustration, and the doctor is on autopilot feverishly completing the patient’s chart repeating this over and over almost 50 or more times a day. Both feel unseen and unheard. Both feel like cattle. I personally have both been the doctor and the patient in this model and honestly, it doesn’t work for me. I’m done. I deserve better. And so do you.
Let’s backtrack now.
Since doctors started seeing patients, they have done so as a team. The doctor, the apprentice, maybe a helper with a defined role, and the patient. The core of this interaction and what makes the actual care is the doctor-patient relationship. Over time, unfortunately that has slowly been ripped apart- by people who want to benefit financially from this model, such as hospital administration, insurance companies, and governing bodies. Doctors are overworked and overwhelmingly there has been extreme burnt out (and this sentiment was intensified by Covid). An abundance of doctors has been leaving the profession of practicing medicine. And of course, the general population feels this. People are experiencing trouble now finding a primary care physician to see them because there is increasing shortage of physicians.
This is where the heart of the DPC (Direct Primary Care) model has a perfect place in today’s world. DPC allows doctors to bring back the “care” in the doctor-patient relationship. While it is considered “revolutionary” and “modern”, it is simply taking medicine back to its roots. By now removing the administrative burdens such as insurance company oversight which in essence are telling physicians how to practice medicine, the physician is now free to spend more time with patients, getting to know them not only when they may need medical attention but also when they are well. This model works because the doctor and patient acts as a team to help bring “illness to wellness”.
The DPC model is simple. You get the benefits of a physician without the high cost of insurance and no copay. There can be different levels of memberships and available programs. There is an initial consultation (or registration) fee to meet you and determine your health goals and current medical issues if any. After this, there is monthly membership cost which outlines your included variety of benefits.
Comparatively, just one Urgent Care visit when you are not feeling well may well cost you $300 or more. Sick visits are included with DPC memberships and saves you both time and money.
With insurance, it may take several days or even weeks to see your primary care physician. With DPC membership you get priority scheduling to see your physician when you need to. In addition, the physician works furiously to get patients access to discounted care- with radiological services, laboratory services and medications which the patient is financially responsible for and disclosed up front without murky insurance language leading to confusion and frustration. (Note: Insurance may cover some DPC services, and you are free to try and claim reimbursement)
DPC does not take the place of an emergency room, hospital levels of care or critical care units, so insurance still is important to have (think surgeries, advanced specialty care). With your physician spearheading your care with you, you may be able to avoid Urgent Care and some ER trips altogether and you will know when you need to go to the hospital or when something can be managed by your doctor at home.
With a DPC membership, you will likely save money in the end and focus on preventative care rather than care just when you are ill. And those co-pays? Some patients spend up to $200/month (or more) simply on copays. That’s more than the average DPC physician charges for membership (obviously depending on location and membership inclusions).
Years ago, there was a doctor in a small village of about 500 people, and that doctor knew all 500 of those people- their families and friends, their lifestyle, and habits.
That’s DPC- with a limited number of members per practice, physicians can truly know their patients and help them live their best and healthiest lives possible. It’s simply modern medicine with a focus on old world relationships.
Here’s a little secret- my doctor is a DPC doctor too.