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What are the first steps to take for starting a DPC practice?

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The direct primary care (DPC) model is enticing to many independent physicians. The number of DPC practices continues to grow, with the lure of reduced administrative burden and increased patient interaction time. Independent physicians who decide to practice under the DPC model may be starting completely new practices or transforming an existing traditional practice. Either way, there are some steps that should be taken when starting a DPC practice.

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends that the independent physician with an existing practice should conduct “a practice evaluation to determine whether the practice would benefit from transforming into a DPC practice.” Once that is done, the AAFP recommends consulting a legal expert familiar with DPCs who can provide “insight about local and state regulations governing the practice of retainer-based medicine and whether current insurance carrier contracts may be amendable to complementary services covered under a retainer fee.”

Elation Health has developed a Direct Care Playbook that outlines steps that need to be taken by a physician considering launching a new DPC practice.  Some considerations include:

  • Finding an office. The physician will need to determine whether it is more feasible to rent or buy office space. The office will also need to have equipment and furniture. All of these steps will take time, generally about six months.
  • Staffing. With the DPC structure, the number of staff required to manage the practice is significantly reduced but the physician will probably need one or two assistants for the practice.
  • Pricing guide. Since a DPC practice operates primarily on patient membership fees, DPC physicians need to decide how much they need to make to keep their practice afloat, and how much they would like to make in an ideal situation.

The DPC physician will also need reliable technology to maintain patient records. The electronic health record (EHR) is a critical first choice for any physician starting a direct care practice. This tool will be the main technology a physician engages with throughout the day, keeping workflows efficient and informing decisions at the point of care.