Direct Primary Care

Direct Primary Care for Doctors - Great but Challenging

April 17, 2021

Harsha Moole, M.D., MBBS

Practicing medicine in America often feels like navigating a complex puzzle of red tape laid out by the powerful health insurance industry.

With writing and filing the necessary insurance paperwork, physicians are often left with just about 8 minutes of face-time with patients and about the same amount of time examining electronic health records and medical charts. For most doctors, this isn’t nearly enough time for a proper diagnosis.

Insurance companies often also influence how patients should be treated by ordering unnecessary testing and treatments. The Journal of the American Medical Association Network published a 2019 study that claims, “the estimated cost of waste in the US health care system ranged from $760 billion to $935 billion, accounting for approximately 25% of total health care spending.”

Growing tired of the wastage and overreach, some doctors and other healthcare providers have begun primary medical care practices not reliant on the health insurance industry at all. They do this through the Direct Primary Care (DPC) model.

Who is a Direct Primary Care Physician?

A DPC physician is a doctor who likes to foster better doctor-patient relationships to provide a more personalized, and more importantly, accurate brand of primary care practice.

In a way, DPC physicians are entrepreneurs who run their medical practice beyond the purview of insurance companies. As such, they are free to treat their patients the way they see fit without being pressured to perform unnecessary and wasteful tests.

Why physicians are considering switching to DPC?

DPC doctors choose to build a practice or work with a clinic around the Direct Primary Care model. They don’t deal with insurance companies. Instead, they get their fees for primary medical care directly from patients who have agreed to pay a low monthly fee in place of pricy primary care health insurance.

This is why most physicians attracted to the DPC model are family medicine doctors, general practitioners, and doctors of osteopathic medicine. These types of doctors are usually the ones people go to for routine medical diagnostics procedures and checkups.

The DPC model would help them diagnose their patients more accurately and treat them more efficiently. A DPC physician, therefore, is someone who prioritizes building a meaningful and personalized doctor-patient relationship with their patients.

How Does Direct Primary Care Work?

Direct Primary Care is a model in which healthcare providers cut the insurance companies out of primary care practice by collecting a monthly membership fee from their patients in exchange for their services, selecting primary medical care procedures, and sometimes, even prescription medicines.

This way, insurance companies cannot influence how doctors treat their patients or how many patients they see in a day. DPC essentially brings medicine back to basics by allowing primary care doctors to spend more time building personalized doctor-patient relationships and treating illnesses or injuries and less time doing clerical work for insurance companies.

Direct Primary Care (DPC) gives patients direct access to their family care physician, discounted medication and out-patient services for an affordable monthly subscription. - Dr. Harsha Moole , founder @ PhysicianEstate, FindMyDirectDoctor

How to Start Direct Primary Care?

There are three modes of entry into DPC practice. You can either start one on your own, as a member of a DPC network, or as an employee of a Direct Primary Care clinic.

If you’re wondering how to start a Direct Primary Care practice on your own, you can treat it as a startup. This makes a DPC doctor wear two hats as an entrepreneur and a physician.

This makes it the owner of a DPC practice responsible for drafting DPC contracts for patients, paying for operational costs, and hiring the necessary workforce such as administrative staff to run the business.

Direct Primary Care Model

How Much is Direct Primary Care?

Costs related to starting a DPC practice involve leasing or buying an office or clinic space, salaries for administrative staff and nurses, and buying medical equipment and necessary office supplies. You can bring the costs down by buying a hospital surplus, leasing space in an inexpensive neighborhood, or doing the administrative tasks yourself.

These operational costs should all be covered by the monthly recurring fees collected from patients, ranging from $30 to $300 each month depending on the bundles and packages offered by the practice.

Some say that it usually takes 1-3 years to reach target patient signups to break even. With enough people signing up, DPC practices can potentially earn tens of thousands of dollars each month while seeing a lot fewer patients than traditional insurance-based practices.

What is a Direct Primary Care Clinic?

Although DPC doctors often offer home visits or direct call consultations, they still need a base of operations to onboard new members and undertake medical procedures. For this reason, Direct Primary Care doctors still often maintain a clinic.

DPC clinics generally function the same way as traditional primary care or family medicine clinics. It is a venue where most of the medical equipment that primary care doctors need is stored and made available to patients. It differs because direct primary care clinics are not equipped to process paperwork intended to be submitted to insurance companies.

What is a Direct Primary Care Arrangement?

Doctors who choose to practice as DPC physicians essentially agree to a financial agreement with their patients. In general, the agreement is that doctors would ensure alternative access to their services such as text, email, or other forms of communication.

An easy appointment-setting system that can even accommodate same-day bookings, and a predetermined list of primary care procedures and services in exchange for a monthly membership fee that’s similar to a retainer. This essentially entitles patients to 24/7 access to their doctors.

How to Market Direct Primary Care?

Often, DPC practices market themselves via word-of-mouth marketing. This comes naturally to the practice as physicians can truly get to know their patients to provide them with a service worth recommending. This makes patients prefer DPC practices over traditional practices.

Another potentially lucrative marketing avenue for DPC practitioners is via employer groups. DPC practices can offer their services to employers as a stand-alone benefit to their existing employees and recruits.

Having an around-the-clock primary care provider available for call consults or same-day appointments is a huge value-add for employees. However, it is important to make sure employees understand that DPC is not a replacement for insurance coverage. Instead, DPC is a great way to augment existing health insurance coverages that they may already have.

What is Direct Primary Care Salary for Physicians?

Doctors who choose to go into a DPC practice take their paycheck from the monthly fees of the patients who signed up for their practice. Essentially, Direct Primary Care Doctors are entrepreneurs who sell their services and are responsible for marketing and managing their practice.

So, if you’re asking how much a Direct Primary Care doctor makes, then the general answer is that it’s wholly dependent on the doctor’s entrepreneurial skills. The general rule of thumb is that the more patients a doctor attracts to his practice, the more he can stand to earn.

To this end, many Direct Primary Care practitioners also take business courses to help them manage the rigors of the business side of things in their chosen practice.

Normally, DPC doctors charge around $30 - $300 per month for each patient, depending on the package they avail. Over $300 usually falls under the concierge medicine category. A typical primary care doctor typically takes on 600-800 patients, so that should total to around to a range of $216,000 to $440,000, after expenses.

How Many Direct Primary Care Practices Are There?

The success of DPC practices is inspiring other doctors to shift from traditional practices every day. Therefore, the number of direct primary care doctors and practices is rising ever exponentially within the US.

There are more than 1500 DPC practices in the country, and this number is actively growing. FindMyDirectDoctor website has the largest directory of all DPC doctors in the country.

To find a DPC practice near you, check out FindMyDirectDoctor.com. The website consolidates all the information you would need, such as location and contact number.

DPC For Doctors and Patients:

For patients, signing on for a DPC practice provides peace of mind in knowing that your primary care doctor will be able to take a proper look at you for an accurate assessment of your health. It also allows doctors to be on-call for consultation 24/7.

In every DPC practice, the patient is the primary concern of every doctor, so they’re given VIP treatment from appointment booking to the consultation. Patients can enjoy all these benefits with transparent monthly fees that won’t require you to cough up money for copay and insurance-related bill shocks.

For doctors, starting up a DPC practice can help reduce burnout from seeing thousands of patients a day in a traditional practice without sacrificing income. The reduction of the number of patients a primary care doctor has to see in a day combined with the lack of insurance papers to write and file.

At its core, DPC practices help doctors practice their profession the way they see fit without being bothered by unnecessary oversight from insurance companies.

Conclusion

Having more DPC practices is a win-win for both patients and doctors. Direct primary care benefit is that it lessens the time and money wasted on insurance filings for normal day-to-day medical procedures and checkups while also giving patients and doctors the face-time needed to make proper diagnoses.

FAQs

1. What is a Direct Primary Care Doctor?

Ans: A DPC doctor is a physician who likes to foster better doctor-patient relationships to provide a more personalized, and more importantly, accurate brand of primary care practice.

2. How to start a direct primary care practice?

Ans:Here’s a checklist you need to do while starting a direct primary care practice: 1. Find a location 2. Setup an Office, 3. Recruit the staff, 4. Decide you pricing Strategy 5. Market yourself 6. Strive for your growth and Success.

3. How much does a primary care doctor make?

Ans: Normally, DPC doctors charge around $30 - $300 per month for each patient, depending on the package they avail. Over $300 usually falls under the concierge medicine category. A typical primary care doctor typically takes on 600-800 patients, so that should total to around to a range of $216,000 to $440,000, after expenses.

4. What are direct primary care fees?

Ans: Normally, DPC doctors charge around $30 - $300 per month for each patient, depending on the package they avail.

Authored by Harsha Moole, M.D., MBBS

Advocate of healthcare models that promote direct relationship between patients and doctors. Founder @ FindMyDirectDoctor, LLC.

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