Navigating today’s healthcare environment is time-consuming and exhausting. As doctors, we see first-hand the challenges patients face within our current system. In response to these challenges, we’ve joined a growing movement across the U.S. that seeks to merge old values of doctor-patient relationships with modern ideas on how to deliver effective care through a direct primary care (DPC) model.
The DPC model gets back to the basics of doctors spending more time with patients during visits and establishing a strong partnership around their health needs and goals. DPC practices don’t bill insurance for their services; instead, they offer an upfront membership rate that covers all doctor’s visits and often many common labs, office procedures and more. The model also affords the flexibility of patient-doctor interaction over the phone, email, or even privacy-protected text messaging and video chat. We hear a lot of people ask, “Is this the same as concierge medicine?” DPC is like concierge medicine but on a budget. DPC practices do not bill insurance in addition to charging a retainer, but the membership model allows for some of the same great accessibility and personalized approach.
After only one year of establishing Avenu Health here in Asheville, North Carolina, we’ve found that community members and businesses alike are embracing this new model of care at a rapid rate, proving that it may be the solution to the many real healthcare complexities that all of us crave.
Achieving Health & Well-being Through DPC: Member Success Story
Scott and Millie Sibley, along with their 10-year-old son, became members of Avenu Health after moving to the community in spring 2018. As small business owners, the Sibleys were on their own to find and pay for their medical care. The coverage they had been receiving through ACA exchange yielded a high deductible of $2,000 per month and lacked access to even routine check-ups difficult – let alone urgent needs. Avenu Health offered an alternative to meet their care needs.
Through Scott’s annual wellness visit and the routine lab tests covered within his membership, he learned he had diabetes. Behavior change is one of the most challenging obstacles to overcome, so with the help of health coach Amy Rose, RN, we worked closely with him on a plan with attainable goals and milestones to help him manage his diabetes. The first milestone was to lower his blood sugar levels by half a point by adopting a healthier diet. Throughout the first three months of his new lifestyle, Scott visited the office, called to check in and even texted photos of his new healthy meals.
As doctors who went into the field wanting to truly make an impact, we were thrilled to be seen as true partners and brought along on Scott’s journey. Three months came and went, and the day came to see Scott’s progress. With newly formed habits and an ongoing connection with the care team, Scott not only surpassed his blood sugar goal by lowering it a full point, but he also lost 25 pounds in the process and was able to get off two medications.
Fitting To Your Unique Story
Scott’s transformation was amazing, but his story is not uncommon for DPC practices popping up across the country. Like Scott, a real impact can be made on an individual’s health and well-being when patients are not limited by access to quality, cost-effective care.
People with various insurance scenarios are members in DPC practices. Some with no insurance at all seek out DPC because of the affordable and transparent pricing, as well as the negotiated discounts for services outside the primary care office. Others have “catastrophic” or a high-deductible insurance plan and want to avoid steep co-pays at a traditional office. We see employers paying for memberships for employees or offering it as part of a bigger health benefits package. And lastly, some people even with quite comprehensive insurance still choose to invest in the membership because of the better patient experience.
Ultimately, doctors and members love DPC for many of the same reasons. By getting back to the basics and taking time to develop close relationships, we can partner together to ensure hassle-free care when, where, and how it is needed.