Direct Primary Care (DPC) is an innovative alternative payment model for primary care being embraced by patients, physicians, employers, payers, and policymakers across the United States. The defining element of DPC is an enduring and trusting relationship between a patient and his or her primary care provider.
Empowering this relationship is the key to achieving superior health outcomes, lower costs, and an enhanced patient experience. DPC fosters this relationship by focusing on five key tenets:
- Service: The hallmark of DPC is adequate time spent between patient and physician, creating an enduring doctor-patient relationship. Supported by unfettered access to care, DPC enables unhurried interactions and frequent discussions to assess lifestyle choices and treatment decisions aimed at long-term health and wellbeing. DPC practices have extended hours, ready access to urgent care, and patient panel sizes small enough to support this commitment to service.
- Patient Choice: Patients in DPC choose their personal physician and are active partners in their healthcare. Empowered by accurate information at the point of care, patients are fully involved in making their own medical and financial choices. DPC patients have the right to transparent pricing, access, and availability of all services provided.
- Elimination of Fee-For-Service: DPC eliminates undesired fee-for-service (FFS) incentives in primary care. These incentives distort healthcare decision-making by rewarding volume overvalue. This undermines the trust that supports the patient-provider relationship and rewards expensive and inappropriate testing, referral, and treatment. DPC replaces FFS with a simple flat monthly fee that covers comprehensive primary care services. Fees must be adequate to allow for appropriately sized patient panels to support this level of care so that DPC providers can resist the numerous other financial incentives that distort care decisions and endanger the doctor-patient relationship.
- Advocacy: DPC providers are committed advocates for patients within the healthcare system. They have time to make informed, appropriate referrals and support patient needs when they are outside of primary care. DPC providers accept the responsibility to be available to patients serving as patient guides. No matter where patients are in the system, physicians provide them with information about the quality, cost, and patient experience of care.
- Stewardship: DPC providers believe that healthcare must provide more value to the patient and the system. Healthcare can, and must, be higher-performing, more patient-responsive, less invasive, and less expensive than it is today. The ultimate goal is health and wellbeing, not simply the treatment of disease.DPC providers are committed to ensuring that American healthcare delivers on these goals.
Direct primary care, or DPC for short, is a simple idea that solves a very complex problem.
Here’s a thought experiment: what if you took all the worst parts about healthcare in America — insurance companies and their mountains of paperwork, corporate hospital systems, and all the middlemen — and you threw them all out the window. That’s DPC in a nutshell.
It’s clear that the current system doesn’t work for everyone.
DPC is different.
As a DPC patient, you forge a relationship with a doctor that knows you. No more scheduling months in advance; your DPC doctor is at your fingertips. If you need an in-person visit, you can usually book one the very next day. Your doctor will stay on top of your health: running preventative tests, diagnosing you when you’re sick, prescribing medicines (and often dispensing them to you directly at wholesale prices — no extra trip to the pharmacy!), negotiating low prices on blood tests and scans, quickly addressing any health concerns or questions you have, and—if necessary—coordinating your care with specialists and hospitals. The vast majority of DPC doctors give you their cell phone number so you can text them with any questions!
How is this possible? A big reason is by cutting insurance out of the picture. Insurance is fundamentally incompatible with providing comprehensive, compassionate care. When a doctor bills your insurance, they are forced to submit an itemized list of each and every medical service they provided. If they don’t, they won’t get paid. But—surprise, surprise—no insurance company will pay a doctor for answering one of your texts or encouraging you to keep track of your goals!
In DPC, you pay a flat monthly membership fee, usually around the size of your cell phone bill. You can pay with your credit card—no more clipboards with pages of insurance paperwork.
If it seems like everything is a subscription these days, that’s because it’s the best way for a business to offer a high-quality service and excellent support over a long period of time. What if Netflix nickel-and-dimed you for every episode or movie you watched? It would be awful, that’s what DPC is like Netflix/Disney Plus/Amazon Prime: you get access to nearly unlimited care for one low monthly price.
This is healthcare like you’ve never experienced. It’s like having a doctor in the family.
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