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Direct primary care and patient engagement

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Independent physicians tend to launch direct care practices out of a desire to spend more time with their patients. They might convert an existing practice, leave a bigger practice, or start a new practice based on the direct care model which typically ensures they see fewer patients during the day.

Part of the challenge of the current physician burnout issue is the sheer numbers facing the provider. In a traditional practice model, the independent physician may feel pressure to see more patients during the day, to meet insurance reimbursement requirements and to cover the practice’s overhead. As described in a recent Forbes article, “A major cause of burnout is ‘bureaucratic drag’ – a toxic amalgamation of administrative demands that erodes the physician-patient relationship. It’s time spent on getting approval from insurance companies to prescribe medications or request an MRI.”

In the direct care model, as the name suggests, the independent physicians works directly for the patient. There is no middleman, specifically insurance companies, to determine how much time the physician can spend with each patient or how many patients the practice needs to see during the course of the day.

Based on patient membership fees, the direct care practice has less overhead than a traditional practice. The physician has more control over time spent engaging with each patient, including time outside the office visit. Patients may communicate with the physician before or after the appointment, to clarify instructions or to ask questions about their plan of care.

As described by the AAFP, “The opportunity to spend more time interacting with patients and providing ongoing follow-up services is at the heart of the patient-centered care provided in DPC practice settings.” The organization continues to emphasize that “because DPC physicians are no longer generating revenue solely on the basis of how many patients they see per day, many report that they have significantly more time to spend with patients in face-to-face visits.”

Patient engagement can play a key role in that patient’s healthcare outcomes. The direct care model enables the physician to actively engage with each patient, spending as much time as needed to ensure the patient is receiving proper care and following those care instructions.