The direct primary care (DPC) model is a concept that may not be familiar to many patients. Even healthcare leaders admit they have not heard of the DPC model or do not clearly understand it. Ironically, the DPC model is quite simple. It actually harkens back to the days of the true family doctor, who even made house calls when necessary.
Essentially, direct primary care is a medical practice model where providers contract directly with patients. There are no insurance middlemen in a DPC practice. Patients are encouraged to secure high-deductible insurance, for catastrophic events, but the DPC provider typically does not accept insurance for the basic services the practice provides.
Patients pay a membership fee for DPC services. The membership fee varies, depending on the practice and the patient, but is usually less than $100 a month. Some DPC providers offer varying membership fees for children, the elderly, and for families. DPC practices also contract with employers that want to offer their employees an innovative and affordable healthcare plan.
DPC fees cover basic primary care services such as immunizations, checkups, minor illnesses and injuries, and some lab work. Same-day appointments are often available. In certain situations, the DPC provider may even make a house call to tend to a patient who cannot go to the provider’s office. The DPC physician also negotiates lower prices for patients on prescription medications and laboratory services, further saving the patient money.
DPC providers make themselves available for their patients. They will provide patients with a cell phone number, an email address, or another mode of electronic communication so the patients can ask questions or seek clarification outside of normal office hours. The DPC provider focuses on the well-being of the patient, rather than administrative tasks such as insurance reimbursement.
As more patients and healthcare leaders learn about the DPC model, the number of practices is growing. As the Direct Primary Care Coalition (DPCC) states, the DPC provides “an enduring and trusting relationship between a patient and his or her primary care provider.” The DPC experience results in lower costs, better health outcomes, and an enhanced patient experience.