Skip to main content

Considerations for starting a new DPC practice out of medical school


The direct primary care (DPC) model of healthcare delivery is significantly different from the traditional fee-for-service model. An independent physician who has chosen to pursue the DPC route for a new practice will need to be prepared for those differences. There are a number of considerations involved in starting a new DPC practice for the physician who is going into private practice out of medical school.

Marketing and education. One of the biggest challenges when starting a new DPC practice is reaching out to potential patients and educating them on how the DPC model of healthcare delivery works.

Patients have become used to the fee-for-service model, which many cannot afford without insurance. A marketing campaign that touts the benefits of the membership fee covering all basic services as well as the added quality of care that comes from spending more time with the physician at each visit will be necessary to spread the word and entice new patients to the new DPC practice.

Setting appropriate membership fees and budgeting appropriately. Most DPC physicians set a monthly fee of $75-100 per adult, with options for children and family memberships. The new DPC practice will need to be able to operate on this revenue. A realistic budget will be necessary to remain financially viable as the practice’s patient panel grows.

Keeping overhead low will be an important consideration, particularly when starting out. Since there is no insurance involved, there is no need to hire administrative staff to handle coding and billing. The lower patient volume also means that a smaller office setting will suffice for the new DPC practice.

Offering price transparency. For those services that are not covered by the membership fee, the new DPC physician will need to determine costs that will be passed on to the patient. Depending on the state regulations, the practice may also be able to dispense prescriptions at a reduced cost. The additional cost structure will require some negotiations with other providers as well as the need to develop strong relationships with specialists, hospitals, and laboratories.

Embracing the “quadruple aim of medicine.” Healthcare providers are familiar with the triple aim – to enhance the patient experience, improve population health, and reduce healthcare costs. One consideration when starting a new DPC practice is the fourth aim – improving the work-life balance of physicians so that the first three can be achieved. In the DPC model, the physician is able to spend more time with each patient and does not have the administrative burden of dealing with third-party payers and waiting for reimbursement.

Strengthening the provider-patient relationship. Spending more time with patients is one of the key considerations when starting a new DPC practice out of medical school. While a typical fee-for-service independent practice may have over 2,000 patients, the average DPC practice has about 600.

The DPC physician can see as few as 10 patients each day, spending up to an hour with each one to develop that strong relationship that is so important to quality outcomes. The DPC patient enjoys time with the physician to discuss concerns and questions during the visit and usually has access via electronic communications after hours.

Choosing the right technology. An electronic health records (EHRs) solution that enables the DPC physician to manage patient data, to collaborate with other providers, and to give the patient access to their own medical records is an essential consideration for starting a new DPC practice. Elation Health offers the DPC provider a streamlined system to manage records, keep track of membership payments, and develop those critically important patient relationships while providing quality care and growing a successful practice.