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Reducing Administrative Burden

First steps for starting a new DPC practice


As with any business, you’ll need to do some research and create a solid plan before launching a direct primary care (DPC) practice. Your patients’ health and well-being and your practice success will depend on adequate preparation before opening your doors. Here are some of the first steps for starting a new DPC practice.

The very first step is to be able to respond to questions from potential patients, and the number one question may be: what is direct primary care? You will need a clear understanding of the way the model works before being able to persuade patients to sign up for your membership-based independent practice.

So, what is direct primary care and what does it mean for your practice and your patients? The Direct Primary Care Coalition explains that DPC is an “innovative alternative payment model improving access to high functioning healthcare with a simple, flat, affordable membership fee.” Most DPC practices do not accept insurance, relying instead on that membership fee for their primary source of revenue.

On the patient side, the ability to have virtually 24/7 access to their provider and receive basic services for a relatively low monthly fee are among the many benefits they will realize in a DPC practice. As their healthcare provider, you are focused first and foremost on your patients rather than on coding and insurance reimbursements.

Once you have a solid understanding of what DPC is, for you and your patients, then you will need to decide on the practical aspects of your new DPC practice.

  • Your monthly membership fee structure, including whether you will have a family rate or special rates for children and seniors
  • The physical location of your practice
  • How many staff members you will need, keeping in mind that your administrative requirements will be minimal since you will not file for insurance reimbursements
  • Any additional services you may offer patients, at a discounted rate.

Finding the right electronic health record (EHR) solution for your new DPC practice will be a critical first step toward your success. Learn more about how Elation Health can help!

On the legal side, you will need a patient agreement that clearly spells out expectations for both you and the patient. It is important that the patient understands what is covered under the basic monthly membership fee and that they may need “catastrophic” insurance to cover more extensive services, including hospitalizations.

You will also need to check state and federal regulations to be sure your practice is operating appropriately and legally. For example, there are several states that do not allow you to dispense medications in your office directly to your patients and some states that severely restrict this activity. Secure the services of a lawyer who is familiar with what a DPC is and how it operates to draw up your patient agreement and to verify that you are adhering to all rules and regulations for your area.

One of the more significant first steps for starting a new DPC practice is to plan and execute your marketing strategy. You will need a well-designed, information website as well as a social media presence. For a new practice, your networking efforts will also help promote the DPC model and your new practice. Offer to speak to community organizations, get involved in volunteering, and take steps to spread the word, especially among those who still wonder, what is direct primary care.