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The DPC model and physician burnout

The DPC model and physician burnout October 26, 2022

Happy DPC Physician

Healthcare providers face many stressful situations virtually every day. The economic environment, fears about the pandemic, and challenges simply keeping their practices financially viable can add to the issues they deal with, while also caring for patients who need their consistent and professional focus. Burnout is a growing problem for providers, but there is some good news regarding the direct primary care (DPC) model and physician burnout.

Physician burnout is defined by the American Medical Association (AMA) as a “long-term stress reaction.” Burnout can include:

  • Emotional exhaustion
  • Depersonalization (i.e., a lack of empathy for or negative attitudes toward patients)
  • A feeling of decreased personal achievement.

The AMA has also indicated that the burnout rate has been increasing with the pandemic, after seeing a six-year decline. The organization, along with the Mayo Clinic and Stanford Medicine, conducted research to determine the rate of burnout among physicians. They found that the rate was 62.8% in 2021, compared with rates of:

  • 38.2% in 2020
  • 43.9% in 2017
  • 54.4% in 2014
  • 45.5% in 2011.

What is the connection between the DPC model and physician burnout? Many experts see DPC as one of the only healthcare delivery models that overcomes those providers’ challenges that can lead to burnout. One big concern for physicians is continuing to bring in sufficient revenue for their practices to profit. Headaches over proper coding, billing, and reimbursement are huge contributors to burnout for providers in traditional practices.

The financial model of the DPC practice helps reduce the stress involved in worrying about revenues. Steady, monthly membership fees cover most basic and preventive services, so patients receive the care they need and the DPC provider enjoys a predictable income.

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Most physicians are in the practice of medicine to make a difference for their patients, of course. The DPC model enables the provider to develop that all-important relationship with their patients, spending more time at each visit and being available for communications outside the office. This level of care improves patient outcomes and also reduces the stress for the physician.

The DPC model results in fewer incidents of physician burnout for a number of reasons, including:

  • Physicians can focus on health outcomes rather than the volume of patients and frequency of visits that contribute to revenue.
  • The administrative burden that takes up a physician’s time and is required for reimbursement is significantly reduced in a DPC practice.
  • DPC physicians are able to manage a population’s health instead of a volume to process for claims.
  • Physicians are able to provide quality care and practice at the top of their license in a DPC practice with activities that utilize the full extent of their education, training, and experience.

As the DPC model prioritizes value over volume, interest is growing in the innovative practice structure, among physicians and organizations such as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The DPC provider is able to focus on the needs of patients rather than the bottom line, which improves the health outcomes of those patients as well as the mental health status of the physicians themselves.