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Traits of successful direct primary care physicians

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Many direct primary care (DPC) physicians say they opened a DPC practice because they want to spend more time with their patients and less time dealing with insurance reimbursements. However, those well-intentioned desires alone are not enough to be successful as a DPC physician. The editor-in-chief of The Direct Primary Care Journal, Michael Tetreault, has identified six traits that are necessary for DPC success:

Tenacity. Physicians who convert their practice, leave a practice, or start a new practice as a DPC physician will generally not be immediate successes. Patients will have to be educated as to the DPC model and, in particular, the benefits to them as DPC patients. Successful DPC physicians will be able to persist through the challenging times to become successful over time.

Passion. Primary care physicians generally make the move to the DPC model because they have a passion to focus on their patients. They typically find that they are “allowed the opportunity to problem-solve and make life a little easier, better and cheaper” for their patients as DPC physicians.

Managing fear, uncertainty and potential failure. The shift to a DPC practice involves risk for the physician. Patients may not understand the concept or fear how it may affect and may even leave the practice. Physicians will not have insurance reimbursements to finance their practice, but will have to manage the fear and uncertainty of running a practice on membership fees.

Vision and task-specific confidence. Having a vision for success is an important trait for a successful DPC physician. As Tetreault explains, “If you’ve planned appropriately, conducted enough analysis and have sufficient research that you can provide the level of service you envision for your medical practices future to ameliorate the risk, you’re ready to take the next step.”

Planning, flexibility. DPC physicians must have the ability to plan well, particularly in regard to their patient-facing time and their budgets, but also have the flexibility to make adjustments when necessary and appropriate.

Rule-breaking. The DPC model is innovative; its membership-based structure runs counter to the typical primary care practice structure. Successful DPC physicians are able to break the rules of the traditional medical practice and take the entrepreneurial step necessary to start and run a practice that benefits them and their patients.