Most doctors decide to become doctors because they want to help people. They want to work with their patients on plans to keep them healthy and to practice medicine in a way that truly makes a difference in their patients’ health outcomes. Many physicians, like Julie Gunther, M.D., of Boise, Idaho, discover that the reality of a medical practice comes with administrative tasks that may keep them from interacting with their patients as much as they’d prefer.
Wanting to be known as “Dr. Julie” in the “Marcus Welby” model of medicine, Dr. Gunther decided to launch a direct care practice (DPC) to serve her patients better, “because it’s what our patients want.” The DPC model operates on patient membership fees and typically does not accept insurance. Patient panels are lower in a DPC practice and administrative costs are significantly reduced.
Independent physicians who practice in the DPC model find that they have more time to spend with each patient, to build relationships, and to truly get to know each person and their specific healthcare needs. However, Dr. Gunther says that independent physicians considering launching a DPC practice should “know that DPC can be exhilarating, but it won’t be easier. You’re not going to work less, but you’ll feel a whole lot better.”
Homework is essential to the process. Dr. Gunther wrote an extensive business plan and shadowed other DPC physicians before finally making her move. She advises that a lot of work will have to be done on the marketing side for a DPC practice. Everything from a name to a logo to social media presence is something to consider at the beginning.
Elation Health has published the Direct Care Playbook to guide independent physicians through all the steps necessary to establish and promote a DPC practice.
Dr. Gunther’s final piece of advice to those considering the move: “Be a great doctor, and create a system that allows you to be a great doctor.”