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Physician perspective: DPC does not mean patient abandonment

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When an independent physician decides to convert the practice to a direct primary care (DPC) model, part of the process will involve reducing the size of the patient panel. In a DPC practice, the physician sees fewer patients in order to be able to spend more time with each patient during the visit. Downsizing the practice in such a manner may leave some patients feeling as though they have been abandoned.

A recent post in Medical Economics, written by Stephen C Schimpff, MD, MACP, a quasi-retired internist, professor of medicine and public policy, former CEO of the University of Maryland Medical Center and author of Fixing the Primary Care Crisis and Longevity Decoded – The 7 Keys to Healthy Aging, explains the situation from a physician’s perspective. In essence, Dr. Schimpff states that physicians who operate DPC practices are able to devote more time to their patients, less expensively, than in a traditional practice and that is “certainly not patient abandonment.”

All of a DPC physician’s patients are not expected to follow the practice through its conversion. That would actually defeat the purpose. However, Dr. Schimpff points out that there are still plenty of traditional primary care practices operating that will take in those patients who choose not to go the DPC route with their physician.

In addition, Dr. Schimpff states that, far from decrying the physician’s move to a DPC model, “once it becomes clear that people can get better care at a reasonable cost, the general public will be the ones who will pressure their PCPs to make the conversion.”

He adds that large patient panels can contribute to physician burnout as well. “The need today is to get back to a reasonable number of visits per day. Using better technology and team functions, that number can be somewhat greater today than it was years ago but it still needs to be a reasonable number that the PCP can interact with appropriately.”