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What is the difference between an independent physician and a DPC physician?

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Physicians face a number of choices, both in their specialty areas as well as their practice structure. A growing number of physicians have chosen to work for hospitals or other larger organizations. However, many have decided they would prefer to become – or remain – independent physicians.

Likewise, a relatively new structure is emerging among primary care physicians. The direct primary care (DPC) model is growing in popularity with providers and with patients. What is the difference between the independent physician and the DPC physician?

Independent physicians, quite simply, run their own practice. They are autonomous and are not employed by another organization. The independent physician may be a primary care physician or may specialize in a particular field of medicine. Independent practices must be prepared to perform a number of required administrative tasks, including billing and insurance reimbursements.

DPC physicians also run their own practice, but they use a different model. The DPC runs on membership fees alone so there are no visit fees to bill or insurance reimbursements to claim. The DPC physician must be prepared to operate solely on those membership fees and may need to negotiate costs with other providers, such as laboratories and radiologists, to be able to remain financially solvent.

Since DPC physicians generally do not accept insurance, they will not have the challenges of claims management that independent physicians face. Effective billing practices and collections also tend to become an integral part of an independent practice, particularly for the physician participating in Medicare.

DPC physicians may face a different kind of challenge, that of convincing potential patients of the viability of their practice. The DPC model is relatively new and is still not completely understood or accepted by many potential patients. Independent physicians operating in a traditional practice structure will not face this challenge.