The ABCs of DPC: Getting started with DPC

When you’re ready to launch a new practice or to transition your traditional practice model to the direct primary care (DPC) model, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Getting started with a DPC includes some important ABCs:

Alternative payment model

Your DPC practice will probably not accept third-party insurance, so you will not have to worry about doing all the paperwork and waiting to be reimbursed. Instead, you will charge a monthly membership fee that will cover all the basic primary care services and potential discounts on prescriptions and lab fees. Some advice from Robert Lamberts, MD, who successfully transitioned his practice and who uses Elation’s electronic health record (EHR) for his patients, includes not charging too much for the membership fee.

Dr. Lamberts says, “While it may seem like a necessity to increase cash flow more quickly, setting prices too high leads to several problems that can stifle growth and doom a practice. High prices are going to select against the patients you most want to attract. In a subscription model, the ideal customer is one who has low demand and high satisfaction with the product you offer.”

He advises that it’s best to attract a mix of younger, potentially healthier patients and those with more medical problems. He states that “It’s better to have 30 healthy people at $30 per month than 10 demanding people at $50 per month, both in the revenue and the work those patients will require. As people get older and have more problems, this rate can go up, as it is easier for people to believe they may get sick and need your service.”

Business plan

Your DPC practice is a business and, as such, needs a solid plan for sustaining financial viability. Part of that plan will involve setting reasonable rates that patients are willing to pay and that will ensure a steady revenue stream for you. The business plan for your DPC practice will need to include details around:

  • Staffing
  • Location
  • Office hours
  • Services you’ll offer
  • Technology you’ll need (including EHRs)
  • Membership fee pricing
  • Marketing strategies.

To develop a reasonable and realistic business plan, it will help to reach out to other DPC providers to learn more about their challenges and successes with the new practice model. In addition, resources such as Elation Health’s Direct Care Playbook can provide you with the information you need to develop a working business plan that will ensure you are able to provide quality care for your patients while maintaining financial stability for your practice.

Communication

One of the DPC’s key attractions for patients is knowing they can communicate with you outside of the office, when they need to clarify instructions or have questions about their care. When getting started with your DPC, determine how you will communicate with your patients, whether by messaging through a portal, by providing them with a direct phone number, or by other means such as secure emails.

Communication will also be important when marketing your new DPC practice. You will need to get the word out to current patients, if you are transitioning a traditional practice, and to new patients, when you are trying to grow your practice. Communicate the benefits of the DPC model, including the fact that patients will have a virtually open line to your and your staff when they need quality care.