Doctors and advanced practice nurses have seen their industry change significantly over the last few decades. The most prominent changes have occurred in primary care and family medicine. Now, another change is afoot. It is a change that could lead to more options for healthcare careers among doctors and nurses.
That change is the rise of direct primary care. Once known as ‘concierge medicine’, direct primary care is more of a payment model than anything else. Offices choosing to offer it do not accept insurance company payments. They do not accept Medicare and Medicaid. Rather, services are provided on a cash basis.
Direct primary care is a payment model based on flat fee services. More often than not, practitioners charge an annual fee similar to a membership fee or subscription. In exchange, they offer patients unlimited access to routine primary care. In-office lab tests and other similar outpatient services are billed separately.
More Affordable Primary Care
The Direct Primary Care Coalition (DPCC) maintains that direct primary care is a more affordable model. They say that the model gives patients access to the doctors they choose at rates that can be as low as $70 per month. Compare that to the HMO model that can cost some families many times that amount in co-pays along with the hundreds of dollars they pay for health insurance.
The DPCC further maintains that direct primary care leads to better health outcomes for patients. This is rooted in the understanding that practitioners are accountable only to their patients. They are not accountable to insurance companies and insurance-related HHS mandates.
More Time with Patients
Direct primary care providers say they have more time to spend with patients under the direct model. There are no quotas to fill, so doctors can see as many patients as they choose to in a single day. If they run a little late with one patient, there is no risk of incurring the wrath of insurance companies who may be unhappy that volume was down that day.
The direct model further empowers doctors to more closely follow their own treatment protocols rather than simply doing what the insurance companies say they should do. This puts the decision-making back in the hands of doctor and patient rather than both acquiescing to a third-party with no vested interest in the patient’s health.
A Better Way to Practice
So, what does this have to do with healthcare careers? Everything. It is one thing to complete 12 years of medical education before going to join a group practice or take a job as a hospitalist. It is an entirely different matter to leave medical school with the understanding that you are going to start your own practice.
As you know, private practice volumes have been steadily falling for decades. The direct primary care model could turn the tide in the opposite direction. Direct primary care offers a whole new career model that allows doctors to practice privately without all of the constraints imposed by the HMO system.
Health Job Nationwide suggests that healthcare careers in direct primary care would also open doors to advanced practice nurses as well as RNs and LPNs. In states where nurse practitioners and physician assistants are free to provide primary care without direct physician supervision, the direct primary care model seems rather attractive.
Direct primary care is growing across the country. It is opening the door to a new kind of healthcare career that puts the focus back on patients. If it is not on the radar for new doctors now coming up, it should be.