As a direct primary care (DPC) physician, you know that education and information about the DPC model are critical to helping potential patients understand how your practice operates. When onboarding a new patient to your DPC practice, ensuring that your patients know what to expect will be an integral part of your task list.
Onboarding a new patient to your DPC practice involves:
- Helping the patient understand the structure of the DPC model.
- Preparing the patient for a different kind of office visit.
- Clarifying what is included in the membership fee.
- Sharing available options for patient communications with the practice.
- Making sure they know how to access their patient portal.
- Explaining the potential need for supplemental insurance.
- Conducting an initial patient visit to get to know each other.
- Securing available medical records.
Patients who are transferring over from a traditional model primary care practice might be surprised to find that, as a DPC physician, you and your team will spend much more time with them during their office visits. A typical DPC visits runs about 30-45 minutes, while a visit with a traditional practice may only last about 10 minutes.
Your new patients will also want to know how to contact you. DPC practices typically open up communications options to include texting, emailing, and sending direct and secure messages through the patient portal. Make sure the new patient has access to all of the relevant contact information and understands how and when they can reach out to you and your team.
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You will probably have the new patient review and sign a contract that spells out the terms of the DPC membership for both provider and patient. Reassure the patient that this contract does not bind them to a long-term commitment but is simply an explanation of the services you will provide as part of their membership fee and their financial responsibility. Most DPC patient contracts include a clause stating that either party can cancel with 30 days’ notice.
When onboarding a new patient, explain that basic services are covered under the membership fee but that they may want to secure insurance that will cover hospitalizations or specialty provider visits that may arise out of their healthcare needs. Many DPC patients carry high deductible insurance, known as “catastrophic” insurance that is affordable but gives them the comfort of knowing that they have coverage for expenses outside of the basic care your DPC practice provides.
Guide new patients through the steps of accessing their medical records in their patient portal. Patients who are able to easily view their information, including test results and visit notes, tend to be more involved in their own healthcare. Research has shown that patient portals are being used more by patients and can help those individuals enhance their knowledge about their care and medical status.
The Health Information National Trends Survey, conducted from January through April 2020, found that 86% of the patients who accessed their patient portal did so to review test results. The study also found that almost 40% of those patients accessed their healthcare data using a smartphone. In addition, about 60% used their portal to communicate with their provider, a number that has increased significantly over the past few years. Over half of the patients used the portal to view the clinical notes written by their provider.
Guiding new patients through these details will help you and them as you move forward with quality care and improved patient outcomes.