Direct primary care (DPC) physician Julie K. Gunther has just published an inspirational and helpful guide for other aspiring DPC physicians. Sparks Start Fires: A Guide for Dreamers Who Are Also Doctors is “peppered with personal anecdotes, shared leanings, spreadsheets, cautionary tales, resource lists and more.” The book “outlines how to start your own direct primary care (DPC) clinic in twenty clear steps.”
Gunther, based in Boise, Idaho, is “a dual-Board Certified Family Physician who loves being a doctor.” She launched sparkMD in 2013 “to take back her relationship with her patients and to empower herself to be the doctor she set out to be.” The practice takes full advantage of its Elation electronic health record (EHR) solution to accomplish its goals for both the providers and the patients.
Elation’s EHR is widely adopted by DPC practices.
In 2017, Gunther gave a presentation at the DPC Direct Primary Care (DPC) Summit and noted then that it is essential for physicians who want to transition to the DPC model to find a mentor to guide them. With the publication of her book, Sparks Start Fires, she provides that guidance to others. The book tells the story of how sparkMD came to be, including the sacrifices she and her family made in the process.
Focused on transitioning to a simplified, back-to-basics business model for her practice, Gunther wrote a 33-page business plan to secure a loan. She also sold her house and truck and took her children out of private school, in addition to other ways she managed to cut the family’s expenses by $2,000 a month.
Her path to a successful DPC practice has not been without its own challenges. Gunther was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, at the age of 40. It was then that she reframed her personal goals as well as her goals for her practice. She began to focus on building a team of healthcare professionals who supported her mission. The team would enable her to “spend time sharing sparkMD’s mission with other doctors and medical organizations throughout the US.”
A popular contributor to publications and platforms such as Forbes, NPR, Bloomberg News, Medical Economics, Physician Practice, Reason TV, KevinMD, The Idaho Statesman, The Idaho Business Review, and Greenbelt Magazine, Gunther’s new book is geared toward physicians who want to “be the doctor you set out to be.”
Gunther says sparkMd was founded to:
- Empower: Empower sparkMD physicians and their team to be accountable to patients, first-and-foremost.
- Provide: Provide a dignified, sustainable, affordable and dependable place to receive full-spectrum family medical care.
- Return: Return the practice of medicine to its roots: the relationship between patient and their healthcare team.
The DPC model has become more popular with physicians and patients in the 21st century. The medical practice structure is based on membership fees rather than per-visit charges. For almost all of America’s history, Americans paid their provider directly for care. It was only in the 20th century that health insurance outpaced out-of-pocket pay as the primary revenue source for medical practices. DPC physicians such as Gunther believe that “better care can be delivered much more affordably by separating primary care from traditional insurance.” Gunther’s new book will prove a helpful guide for providers “who want better.”