In a time of rising out-of-pocket healthcare costs, increasing health insurance premiums and less time with the doctor, the Direct Primary Care Alliance has announced its founding as a grassroots organization of primary care doctors who aim to make healthcare affordable, patient-centered and simple.
Direct primary care, which differs from concierge medicine in that DPC physicians do not bill third-party insurers for patient care, has been around for over a decade. In the last several years, however, there has been significant growth in the number of primary care doctors moving from the current fee-for-service model to the direct-pay model. “Since the DPC Mapper project began in 2014, approximately 150 practice locations have been added each year,” said DPC Frontier founder Philip Eskew, DO, JD, MBA.
The organic, physician-led growth of DPC has laid a robust foundation for creating a more formal organization. “To this point, this movement has been supported by underground networks of doctors helping doctors. Discussions about a physician-led DPC organization have been ongoing for years, but we now feel it’s time to formalize and better structure our efforts,” said W. Ryan Neuhofel, DO, MBA, president of the Direct Primary Care Alliance.
In this context, direct primary care patients can expect to have a better, more personal relationship with their physicians. Many Direct Primary Care Alliance physicians offer direct access between the physician and patient via email, texting, or videoconferencing. Others offer flexible scheduling, after-hours visits, and home visits. Not only are patients offered transparent pricing for their primary care needs, but also, many direct primary care practices have worked to negotiate low, cash-based pricing for their patients for labs, radiology and specialists visits as well.
Commonly reported in medical journals, physician burnout has been escalating. Some physicians have, in lieu of leaving the profession, transitioned to the new, direct-pay model to stay in practice. “Direct primary care is a simplified model of healthcare that is restoring the joy of doctoring, restoring the pact between patient and physician, and igniting a light for young and old doctors alike, calling them back to the time-honored profession of medicine,” said DPCA Vice President Julie Gunther, MD.
Many physicians note the meteoric rise of administrators and nonclinical personnel in healthcare as one reason physician burnout rates are rising. DPC is seen as a way for physicians to combat this burnout by returning to a model that puts the patient first and the physician as the director of both care and the healthcare system. The Direct Primary Care Alliance helps physicians take this leap because, from this front-row seat in healthcare, physicians can be more responsive to the needs of their patients, and patients can more closely hold their care team accountable through direct feedback and choice of their physician.
By providing a stronger voice for the hundreds of independent, physician-owned DPC clinics nationwide, the Direct Primary Care Alliance helps elevate the concept of direct pay and has the platform to negotiate better pricing on a nationwide scale for patients. Because the vow of “First, do no harm” encompasses doing no financial harm, the DPC movement can facilitate a discussion regarding the cost of care in patient care. Once prices are known and can be discussed between the patient and doctor, decisions can be made that not only provide the best healthcare to a patient but also provide a realistic financial understanding to the patient regarding their healthcare needs.
The organization hopes to grow with support from its members and aims to provide leadership in three main areas: education, public discourse surrounding direct primary care, and best practices for direct primary care doctors and clinics nationwide. Programs will roll out as the organization gains momentum throughout this year and the next.
The Direct Primary Care Alliance is a grassroots organization providing vision, leadership, and guidance to the direct primary care community through physician-led education, mentorship, advocacy and organizational intelligence.
(Editor’s Note: This is the press release for the group. I am a proud founding member of this organization. If you are a DPC doctor then this is the ONE to support and be involved with. Please join!)