Most people know what a primary care physician is, but what exactly is direct primary care (DPC?)DPC is different from the typical fee-for-service, insurance billing model in that DPC operates like a subscription service. Patients pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual fee to have access to their doctor at any time and for almost all services.
Just as you pay a monthly fee to watch your favorite shows on Hulu or Netflix, you can pay a subscription service to your doctor to cover primary care services such as clinical or laboratory services, consultative services, care coordination, and comprehensive care management. But what are the actual benefits to a direct primary care physician? We’re glad you asked:
DPCs do not accept health insurance as payment, but even if you do have insurance you can still go to a DPC. Whether you have a plan with a big health insurer, a health sharing community, or something in-between, you can still save money and have a better healthcare experience by using a direct primary physician. In many cases, health sharing communities will offer you a discount on your monthly fee if you have a DPC and some employers offer to pay for a DPC as an alternative to health insurance. For those who are unemployed or work part-time, direct primary care is an affordable way to get quality health care despite job status.
You rarely know the exact cost of a health care service or appointment before going in, which is why the price transparency that comes with DPC is so great! Since you pay a flat rate, you know exactly how much it costs to receive the services your direct primary care physician offers. This makes it easier to budget for other health care expenses, such as medications or surgeries, and relieves a lot of the stress that comes with going to the doctor. Depending on the DPC, some will even recommend tools and services to help you shop for the best price on your medication, imaging and even surgery centers.
Everyone is guilty of putting off making an appointment or ignoring pain because they couldn’t afford the expense. Since you pay every month, quarter, or year for a direct primary care physician, there’s never an excuse to not get care when you need it; you’ve already paid for it! DPCs are also available through online communication portals, which means you can ask your doctor about a medical issue you’ve been having and get a course of treatment over a text. Your doctor can also advise if you need to come in for an appointment or not, or even go see a specialist.
One of the best perks of direct primary care is that doctors have more time to spend with patients. Less paperwork and not having to deal with an insurance company frees up DPC doctors to spend enough time with patients to get to the bottom of a problem. In many cases, your initial appointment with a DPC will last an hour so you can build a relationship and your doctor can understand your health needs. It’s also common for DPCs to use online communication platforms, which makes it easy and fast to interact with your doctor for situations where you don’t need to go in for an appointment but do need your doctor’s advice.
Everyone is used to the “standard” system of healthcare: having health insurance with a high deductible (or a low deductible but high monthly payments), busy physicians, and no price transparency. There are solutions to this broken system though, such as direct primary care. As more people use these alternatives, the closer we get to fixing the messy healthcare system in America. At the very least, you get a more affordable healthcare option that improves overall health.
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