What is Direct Primary Care?
Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a healthcare model that has been around since the 1800s in the United States. Families or groups of people back then would hire a physician that can provide care for them exclusively.
Today, Direct Primary Care (DPC) refers to a membership healthcare system where employees under a specific company receive primary care services from a provider. Most DPC practices in the US charge an average of $77.38 a month or lower than $100 per employee or patient. This fee covers primary care services such as wellness visits, chronic disease management, follow-ups, some routine laboratory tests and imaging for the employees.
DPC is simple. It is a no-insurance, retainer fee model. There is no third-party billing except for pricier tests or medications. This type of practice is particularly ideal for primary care providers because it allows them to have meaningful and in-depth engagement with their patients without worrying about insurance coverage.
They also have fewer patients as compared to a traditional primary care practice. Hence, in a DPC model, clinicians can spend more time with each of their patients. Based on the latest data, there are over 700 DPC practices in 48 states in the US.
How is DPC different from concierge medicine?
- Also nvolves a membership contract.
- Fees are usually higher and paid annually.
- In addition to this fee, concierge practices still involve third-party billing.
- The insurance companies would still be involved in this type of healthcare model.
- The patients in concierge medicine also belong to a higher income strata.
Direct Primary Care :
- The payment for DPC is affordable and is feasible for companies to offer as a BENEFIT or PERK.
- It covers all clinic visits, 24/7 telemedicine and complete support between visits.
- Insurance or government programs are NOT involved in the practice of DPC.
- The target population for DPC is often the working class.
- Because it is cheaper, it doesn’t necessarily cater to the higher income strata either.
Advantages of the Direct Primary Care Program
Better Patient Care
The core advantage of Direct Primary Care lies in building the ideal clinician-patient relationship.
Most clinicians opted to establish their own DPC practice because the traditional primary care setting limits their time with each patient. In a busy clinic, they may need to see as much as a 30 patients in a day and possibly over 600 in a month. They become more prone to burnout and are often left feeling unsatisfied with their own work. With DPC, they have a much smaller patients panel allowing them to delve deeper into health problems and optimizing health. Due to this, there are no long waiting times with DPC. A survey in 15 of the largest cities in the US showed that a patient has to wait an average of 29.3 days before they can meet with their primary care provider. The waiting time for first-time appointments can be longer. In some states like Philadelphia, the first-time visit can be as long as 51 days.
The visits in the traditional setting averages 15 minutes with only a small percentage lasting longer. Surveys have shown that in Direct Primary Care, the average time clinicians spend with their patients in a visit is 35 minutes. This is substantially longer than the usual clinic visits. In DPC, the primary care providers don’t need to rush because appointment times are longer and appointments are never double booked. They can take their time to build rapport and understand the complaints of each patient.
Another upside for the clinician and the patient in DPC is the continuity of care. Not only are most health problems managed in house, companies can maintain the same clinic regardless of the insurance plan. Therefore, the employee can see the same primary care provider for a long time. Sometimes, in the traditional setting, a patient may be assigned to a different doctor for convenience’s sake. But with DPC, most of the time, services would be delivered by the same provider. Each visit wouldn’t feel like a new one but rather a continuation of the prior consults. Management of chronic diseases and health prevention methods are better reinforced this way.
DPC provides better patient care because it is more accessible. As part of the services they offer, your employees can directly text their providers for any health concern. Most DPC memberships also include a 24/7 telemedicine service. Some DPC practices may even offer home-based care visits.
Depending on the patients’ needs, the practice can create a more personalized and comprehensive healthcare service. This is one of the main reasons why the American Academy of Family Physicians support the DPC healthcare model.
A survey of US employers from the year 2015 to 2020 shows that they spend an average of $13,000 a year per employee for their employees’ healthcare costs. This is expected to increase even further by the end of 2020.
The average cost an employer spent per employee for health insurance in the year 2019 was $1,242. Coverage for a family, was as high as $6,016. This does not yet include the out-of-pocket employee costs which would depend on the terms of the insurance company.
As a responsible employer, it is only practical that you explore various healthcare services to ensure that you get the most out of your money. Most of the Direct Primary Care services in the US charge below $100 a month per employee, with an average of $77.38. In a year that’s only less than $1,000 per person, with no visit copays for employees.
This fee goes a long way in saving you money. If you have an employee taking multiple medications for example, for chronic diseases like hypertension or diabetes, DPC can dispense those medications at a lower price. This is because most DPC practices purchase common medications at wholesale. The alternative is being limited by a contract under an insurance company to purchase specific brands of drugs (even when there’s a cheaper, generic available).
Another instance where DPC can save you more money is in the event that one of your employees sustains an injury. Whether that may be a minor fall, a lacerated wound or a minor burn injury, instead of spending thousands of dollars getting it fixed up in the emergency room, you can go directly to your DPC provider. Most DPC clinics can attend to these minor injuries. Ultimately, this will lessen unnecessary expensive ER visits.
No Third-Party Billing
Health insurance can be helpful in some cases but it can also be a burden. Aside from being more expensive than DPC, it’s also too complex. The contracts and stipulations in the agreements might not be fit for all types of employees. In addition, most employers don’t even cover 100% of company health insurance. There is still a percentage that will come from your employee’s pockets. While it might be beneficial in the long run, to some degree it is still costly for you and your employees.
In addition, third-party billing can actually be a hindrance to actual health care. Ultimately, third-party billing influences medical decisions. Before any provider can do anything or proceed with treatment they have to consider if insurance will cover it. Some contracts may even take advantage of the clinician’s position just for monetary gain. In a traditional primary care service which makes use of third-party billing, the clinicians are not autonomous. They will have to take more than the patient’s health into consideration. Some third-party billing contracts may even limit the time for each consult, forcing the primary care provider to schedule for more visits instead.
Reduces hospital admissions and emergency room visits
The core of DPC is health promotion and disease prevention. We’re not just talking about taking maintenance medications for chronic diseases or getting antibiotic prescriptions for an infection. The goal of primary care is making sure patients would not need to take any medications at all. Instead of waiting for the disease and injury to come, a primary care provider’s goal is to give your employees advice on living a healthier lifestyle.
Some people rely on internet research and news for the new diet fad or exercise regimen to follow. Some people might mistakenly start a regimen that’s not even fit for them. Having an accessible primary care provider can help them make more educated decisions about their lifestyle. This even includes mental health. Stress from work, family or relationships can negatively impact their health in the long run. With proper advice and regular visits, most of these adverse health outcomes can be prevented. If your employees have positive health-seeking behaviors, their risk for hospital admissions and emergency room visits will decrease.
Improves Workplace Outcomes
The World Health Organization (2020) emphasizes the importance of your employee’s health and safety. Without the burden of unresolved medical issues, your workers can work comfortably. Decreased hospital admission and emergency room visits will lower absenteeism in the workplace. Ultimately, a healthy worker is a productive worker. Aside from the listed benefits of applying a DPC program for your employees, it can also attract applicants for your workplace.
Don’t know where to start?
Providing Direct Primary Care for your employees can become a wise investment in the long run. The Well Life ABQ Direct Primary Care clinic charges $75 per month including tax for each of your employees. The membership is includes unlimited visits and 24/7 telemedicine. We also offer discounted medications and laboratory testing. The Well Life ABQ DPC is never overbooked either. We only assign 400-500 members per health care provider. If you’re interested, we can address any of your concerns regarding Direct Primary Care by booking a free business review here.