Kyna Fong featured in Fast Company article June 13, 2022
Even before the pandemic, the trend toward direct primary care (DPC) and concierge care practices was growing. Between the desire to spend more time with each patient, to see fewer patients, and to prevent physician burnout issues, many independent physicians have been shifting their practice from the traditional model. Elation Health’s CEO Kyna Fong was asked to comment on this trend for a recent article published in Fast Company magazine.
Reflecting on the growth of DPC and concierge practices, Fong said, “If you really want to spend more time with your patients and not be stuck in paperwork all the time . . . change your business. For a lot of DPC docs, it’s a mantra of, ‘We just want to focus on our patients—we just want to deliver great care,’ and unfortunately the United States healthcare system leaves them no option to be able to do this except to opt out of the dominant insurance-based system.”
The move to the DPC and concierge model also reflects the growing trend toward value-based care and away from fee-for-service. Particularly during the pandemic, physicians who were paid only when they treated a patient saw their revenues decline. Fees for office visits are being replaced by payment for making patients healthier. The value-based care payment model helps physicians who may spend a lot of time giving advice or answering questions, rather than actually seeing patients for office visits during the pandemic.
For those physicians in a DPC or concierge model, treating the patient in a holistic manner without the worry of reimbursement helps them reduce their stress, solidify their revenue, and reduce their burnout tendencies. The patient pays a monthly or annual fee in these types of practices, in exchange for basic primary care services and some additional services, depending on the practice.
There are currently 1,450 DPC practices in the US, according to Direct Primary Care Frontier. There are about 12,000 physicians practicing in the concierge medicine model. Fong also noted in the Fast Company article that Elation’s client base of DPC and concierge practices grew 38% last year.
Many physicians are exploring the DPC and concierge model now especially, the article points out, because the pandemic has put a serious strain on primary care providers. Physicians Foundation conducted a survey, published in December 2020, that found:
- 8% of physicians said their practices closed as a result of COVID-19—approximately 16,000 practices.
- 4% plan to close their practices in the next 12 months.
- 72% of physicians experienced a reduction in income due to COVID-19.
- 12% of physicians – approximately 100,000 – switched to a primarily telemedicine practice as a result of COVID-19.
- 52% of physicians plan to increase use of telemedicine in their practices.
- 58% of physicians often have feelings of burnout, compared to 40 percent in 2018.
- 13% have sought medical attention for a mental health problem caused COVID-19’s effects on their practice or employment situation.
Seeing fewer patients, being able to spend more time with each patient, and developing a meaningful patient-physician relationship are seen as the prime benefits for physicians of transitioning away from the traditional healthcare model and toward a DPC or concierge practice.