Imagine having a family doctor with same day appointments available for you, who takes the time to listen so they can craft the most appropriate treatment plan, and who is available by text, email, or phone for urgent needs.
Imagine, perhaps, that you come down with a sore throat, the kind that feels like you’ve swallowed razor blades, and a fever of 102.3. You’re sure you have another case of strep throat, but instead of having to wait at an urgent care for two hours, you call your doctor’s office and the receptionist says, “Doctor can see you at 11:00, if that works for you?” When you arrive, your doctor greets you in the waiting room after only a minute, holding out a cup of herbal tea to soothe your sore throat. She takes you back to the exam room herself and asks about you and your family while she takes your vitals. It doesn’t take long for the rapid strep test to show positive, and after chatting for a few more minutes, she sends you home with a care package of herbal throat drops and amoxicillin that she stocks right in her office (along with most other common oral medications). What about that copay? There is no copay because visits are included in your monthly membership.
Imagine arriving at the pharmacy to pick up your child’s albuterol inhaler, only to be told that starting with the new year, that particular brand is no longer covered by your insurance. It’s 5:30 and the doctor’s office is closed. Fortunately, you have the doctor’s cell number and you quickly text her to ask if she can send a prescription for the other brand of inhaler to the pharmacy. “Sure! I’ll send it right over,” she responds. This, too, is part of your affordable monthly membership.
Or imagine that you travel to Florida for several months a year. Instead of having to find another doctor to take care of you in Florida, you’re able to have a follow-up phone visit with your doctor back home. You can even show her that strange rash that appeared last week over a video call, while she sends a topical cream to your local pharmacy. It’s all included in your low monthly membership fee.
Imagine you slice your finger open while working in your shop one beautiful Saturday morning. You get to skip that three-hour urgent care visit because, thankfully, your doctor answers her cell phone right away. You explain your ordeal and text her a picture. “Yep, that’ll need stitches. I’m just leaving the farmer’s market, I’ll meet you at the clinic in 45 minutes.” You’re back in the shop by noon thanks to your minimal monthly membership.
This sounds like a dream, but it’s a reality with direct primary care, for a low monthly price that is less than your cable or cell phone bill. Some doctors have turned to this business model as a way to take back medicine, remove insurance company interference in patient care, and get back to doing what they love and do best: helping patients heal. Patients often save money with this model as well. There are no copays or deductibles to be met. Most DPC doctors are able to stock common medications at just a fraction of the pharmacy cost, which is often even lower than their copay. Labs are also drawn and charged to the patient at a much lower cost, often resulting in a bill that is substantially lower than it would have been even with insurance. Additional savings are possible because your doctor is able to treat a much broader range of ailments as she now has the time, which means patients don’t have to be referred to several different specialists, saving them even more on copays and lost time.
But it’s not the savings that make patients so much more satisfied with this model of care. It’s the relationship they are able to develop with their doctor. A doctor who is able to spend the time needed with each patient, to remember family members' names, to be available when the patient most needs them, and to help them truly heal.