The simplicity of the direct primary care (DPC) practice structure is such that overhead, including the need for staffing, is reduced significantly. DPC physicians do not bill insurance companies and patients do not pay a fee for each visit or service provided to them. Billing and accounts receivable are much less complicated than in a traditional independent physician’s office. The front office in a DPC, though, does have a major role for the patient and for the practice.
One of the main responsibilities of the front office is to communicate with patients and potential patients. The front desk gives the DPC patient the critical first impression of the practice. In some practices, the physician may actually come out to greet patients and escort them to the exam rooms; however, the first point of contact is the person in the front office.
Patient engagement is top priority for the DPC front office. Patients may have questions about the membership fee, what is included, how it is paid, and when it is due. The front office staff at a DPC practice should understand the concept of the DPC model to the point where it can be explained thoroughly to potential patients and clarified for current patients. Many DPCs also offer discounted fees on lab services or prescriptions and the front office will be responsible for handling those transactions.
Given the efficiency of the DPC practice, it is up to the front office to maintain an organized healthcare environment for both patients and the physician. Membership fees are the sole income for the practice, so a well-run office is critical for the financial success of the practice, which still must be run as a business. With fewer staff members, patients have only a few contact points in the office, so the front office becomes a critical piece of their visit as well.
The good news is that a DPC patient panel is typically much smaller than a traditional practice’s and the front office staff has a perfect opportunity to get to know each patient better, providing a higher quality healthcare experience for every patient.