The direct care model of medical practice is often misunderstood, to the point where those who are not clear on its structure or purpose may pose a series of objections to the independent physician in a direct care practice. Providers who choose to transition their practice from a traditional model to a direct care practice, in particular, may face questions about why those chose to do so.
Rob Lamberts, MD, a board-certified internist and pediatrician who runs Dr. Rob Lamberts, LLC, a direct primary care practice in Augusta, Georgia, and who is an Elation Health Clinical EHR user, offered his own experience with objections as well as ways in which to address them, in a recent article in Medical Economics.
Common objections to the direct care model include:
DPC is elitist. The direct care model of medical care is often associated with concierge medicine. Those who are unclear as to the concept may confuse the idea of a concierge physician, who charges somewhat higher monthly fees, with the idea of a direct care provider, who typically charges between $35 and $75 per month. In fact, direct care practices usually discount their monthly patient membership fees depending on age and, in Dr. Lamberts’ case, the patient’s ability to pay.
DPC is not scalable. The direct care physician tends to have a smaller patient panel. Dr. Lamberts went from approximately 3,000 patients to 750 in his practice when he transitioned to direct care. The quality of care that a direct care physician can provide patients is significantly higher, however, as the provider has the opportunity to spend more time with each patient. As Dr. Lamberts states, “what is more valuable to society: giving poor care to 3,000 people or excellent care to 750?” in addition, Dr. Lamberts points out, “DPC is far better for the doctors, and will likely slow the burnout rates afflicting primary care at this time.”
What happens when patients need specialty or hospital care? Direct care patient membership fees cover basic primary care services. Labs and discounted prescriptions may also be included, depending on the practice. Patients are encouraged to carry high deductible insurance for catastrophic events such as hospitalizations because the direct care physician offers patients high quality and affordable healthcare, which “can (and does) reduce the need for specialty care, ER visits, and hospitalizations, but it doesn’t eliminate it.”
Dr. Lamberts concludes that direct care “takes a number of steps towards some desperately needed changes (in the healthcare system): lower cost, less over-utilization, happier doctors and healthier patients.”