Why direct primary care is here to stay

When the pioneering direct primary care (DPC) practice, Qliance, closed in June 2017, many saw it as a sign that the DPC model was failing. Qliance, founded and backed financially by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, TV personality Drew Carey and computer mogul Michael Dell, shut down somewhat suddenly. A notice posted on their website offered an official reason that it was “unable to find the bridge funding needed to help us maintain our operations until new contracts could take hold.”

The closure of Qliance, after serving approximately 13,000 patients in the Seattle region for the past ten years, has made many in the healthcare industry wonder whether DPCs can sustain themselves financially. After all, if a project backed by Bezos, Carey, and Dell can’t survive, what chance do other, smaller practices have?

However, the closing of Qliance was probably due more to financial problems outside the practice model, rather than not being able to sustain the practice based on patient membership fees. According to Geekwire, Qliance co-founder and CEO Erika Bliss told them that “that the company’s lender made an ‘unauthorized withdrawal’ of about $200,000 from a Qliance bank account on May 12, causing the sudden shutdown.”

DPC is not only here to stay, the model is actually growing in popularity. As KevinMD reports, the idea that the closing of Qliance “means certain collapse and failure of the direct primary care movement is nonsensical.” Interest in the unique model of a DPC practice is, in fact, growing among independent physicians and their patients.

There are many resources available to help DPC practices. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has formed a special Member Interest Group dedicated to DPCs, a group that is increasing its participation among AAFP members. In addition, Elation Health has just published a Direct Care Playbook, written specifically to help independent physicians considering establishing new DPC practices.

In 2005, there were fewer than 150 physicians practicing in direct primary care, concierge, and other direct care models. This number grew 5x in the next five years, to 756 in 2010, and then even more rapidly to an estimated 6,500 direct care physicians across the country by the end of 2015. Elation Health is dedicated to providing the resources direct care physicians need to continue to grow and prosper while providing quality, affordable healthcare to their patients.