Direct Primary Care (DPC) challenges the very definition of healthcare in America.
More and more research has shown that DPC improves the access to and the quality of care, as well as reduces healthcare cost, mostly by reducing unnecessary healthcare utilization. Unnecessary healthcare utilization is a scourge: It is responsible for upwards of 10 percent of our nation’s healthcare bill. Certainly, the tests and procedures we perform in medicine saves lives, but unnecessary tests and procedures expose patients to unjustified risks.
In February 2016, I founded Balanced Physician Care to bring this emerging model of Direct Care to Northeast Florida. Since then, my love for my profession has returned. Having enough time to spend with each patient has invigorated my passion for medicine. I’m finally practicing medicine the way I always envisioned I could and should. I mention this because the joy I now feel in the practice of medicine is in fact what makes the Direct Primary Care model not just viable but essential.
Critics have argued that widespread adoption of the DPC model will only exacerbate the primary care physician shortage because by necessity it will significantly reduce the number of patients each physician sees. In the short run, this might indeed prove true. But unless a workable solution is found to reverse primary care physician dissatisfaction, a critical shortage is already inevitable. According to a survey conducted by the Urban Institute in 2012, 30 percent of primary care physicians between the ages of 35 to 49 and 53 percent of primary care physicians over the age of 50 want to quit medicine altogether.
Primary care physician patient panel sizes haven’t risen to their current levels of 2,500 to 4,000 patients because primary care physicians believe that these sizes are optimal for patient care. They’ve risen to these levels because insurance reimbursement for primary care hasn’t kept pace with the expense of running a practice, and primary care physicians have been forced to increase the number of patients they see to survive financially. This has resulted not only in poorer access to care, poorer quality of care and increased healthcare costs, but also in dramatically increased primary care physician dissatisfaction. What’s required is a new model that attracts physicians into primary care.
Personalized, quality healthcare is not possible when physicians are handing patient panels of over 4,000 or more in size. No matter how many wellness screenings are being performed. Direct Primary Care has been proven to bring quality, personalized medicine back. According to an article in the British Medical Journal in October 2013, patients of DPC practices enjoy 65 percent less ER visits, 35 percent less hospitalizations and 82 percent less urgent care visits.
Primary care — and with it, all of healthcare — is in crisis. Access to personalized care is limited, the quality of care is poor (despite spending more per capita on healthcare than any other country in the world), the life expectancy of U.S. citizens ranks only 26th out of the 36 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and costs are spiraling out of control. Though many view the new model of Direct Primary Care with skepticism, derision and even fear, new models that ultimately prove successful are often initially greeted that way. But if we can challenge our fear, personally changing to a direct primary care model might just prove in the big picture to be the single most effective solution for the most significant problems facing American healthcare today and even more importantly, ensuring the health of the ones you love.
Optimize Your Health, Simplify Your Life,
Dr Sharyl Truty MD
Dr. Sharyl Truty is the physician-owner of a Direct Primary Care practice called Balanced Physician Care located in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. She has been in practice as both a board-certified Family Medicine and a board-certified Sports Medicine physician for over 15 years. She has completed a fellowship in Integrative Medicine from the University of Arizona with Dr. Andrew Weil. She has practiced Acupuncture for over 12 years after having trained in China and completed the UCLA physician acupuncture certification. Dr.Truty is committed to finding the best solutions to help you live the best-balanced life possible.