Writing as the outgoing president of the Direct Primary Care Alliance, Dr. Julie Gunther says that she and other direct primary care (DPC) providers are “paving the way for a brighter future for primary care and medicine, in general.” Emphasizing that she “will defend the soul of our profession to my last breath,” Dr. Gunther, an Elation electronic health record (EHR) user, shares her wisdom about healthcare and the DPC model.
Acknowledging the barriers in healthcare that have been made worse during the pandemic, Dr. Gunther says that the challenges involved in insurance-based primary care have caused patients to “go to an urgent care, or the ER, or a franchise quick-care in a pharmacy.” Although traditional medicine has the most to offer patients, she says, “we do it in the worst service-model possible.” As a result, patients often cannot access the care they need.
Dr. Gunther states that the pandemic has “shone a bright light on this dysfunction. Cohesive systems, under duress, shine. Incohesive systems, under duress, crumble. I believe it is generous of me to say our healthcare system is crumbling.”
The current issues in healthcare are not with the players, she writes. The problem is the game itself and direct primary care can change that game as it “restores the autonomy and integrity of healthcare delivery.”
DPC is focused on independent providers “working for themselves and their patients.” DPC physicians are available during a crisis, when patients have questions, and when patients need to visit their provider for care. DPC is about “being able to combine science, training and creative thinking to solve problems, not answer to algorithms.” Dr. Gunther adds that being a DPC provider is exactly what she signed up for and doing the “doctor work for the patients I serve feels good.”
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She adds that “DPC has helped me, personally, to reclaim the joy and restoration of the work of being a physician.” Being an independent provider is not easy, particularly during the pandemic. The work is hard and the patients themselves can even be difficult. Society as a whole “isn’t sure what it thinks of physicians anymore.”
The DPC model helps Dr. Gunther to find the joy in her work, though. She says that there “is value in this work. it requires pausing, reducing, simplifying and being the one who is most available to do the work.” And she could not do any of that without the independent DPC practice that she has operated for the past eight years.
Direct primary care “allows for a physician to create a balance for themselves.” It enables the provider to say, “I am going to care for you in this way, on these terms, and I am going to solve problems for you and for me.” Dr. Gunther adds that this approach involves “so much integrity, and sustainability.”
In concluding the wisdom and advice she shared with other independent providers, Dr. Gunther reminds everyone that healthcare “has a soul. And we are on the front lines of all it can do. This work can be joyful. It can be restorative.” In particular, she advises her colleagues in DPC practices to “remember why you set out on this journey in the first place and reclaim your place at the forefront of the healthcare team. On a field of your own choosing and your own creation.”