3 member doctors who have adopted the Direct Primary Care model

Michael Miller  ·  Feb 27, 2018

To hear more from each doctor, click on their linked names for their Q&A.

It’s not only patients who like having direct access to their doctors. The doctors like it, too!

And both parties get it with direct primary care, a way of practicing family medicine that:

  • Removes third parties for payments.
  • Uses transparent pricing.
  • Bundles services like labs, imaging, and prescriptions with membership, or the practice is able to secure deep discounts.
  • Gives direct, 24/7 access to a physician through texting, phone, or email.

Dr. Evelyn Kelly Anderson, Dr. Patrick Rohal, and Dr. Steven Manning—each of them Samaritan Ministries members—all sing the praises of DPC practices because of their relationships with patients and the simplicity of the model.

Dr. Evelyn Kelly Anderson, of Monroe, North Carolina, for instance, knows all her patients by face and name at Anderson Family Medicine. She calls her practice “a modern version of the traditional patient-physician relationship.”

Frustrating regulations are one reason Dr. Anderson decided to leave the traditional models behind and start a Direct Primary Care practice.

“Based on volume, these models reward doctors for the number of patients seen, not the quality of care given. Government and private insurers ... interfered with my ability to give my patients my time and full attention. A new patient must be seen every 15 minutes during a 10-hour workday to help make administrative ends meet and keep the practice running in the black.”

Now Dr. Anderson has the freedom to make sure she spends enough time with each person. Her patient panel is less than 500; a typical patient load is more than 3,000.

“Patients are considered real people here and are more than just medical record numbers or ways to make more money,” she says when asked to elaborate on her practice’s slogan “Healthcare with a Heart.” “We are all created equal in God’s image, and I view my profession as a calling.”

Like most DPCs, the membership in Anderson Family Medicine includes generic medications and routine lab work, as well as many in-office procedures. Dr. Anderson even visits assisted living facilities and nursing homes when it’s needed.

But it all comes back to relationships with patients.

“They like that I am their ‘family’ doctor and that I know their history and may even be the doctor for other family members,” she says.

Dr. Patrick Rohal of CovenantMD in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, also values the personal touch in his DPC practice. It’s not unusual, because of the smaller staff needed for a DPC, for a doctor to answer the phone.

He says that his patients appreciate the 60 to 90 minutes they usually have with him or one of the CovenantMD staff.

“(They) also appreciate the streamlined access to their physician, in terms of the ability to call the doctor’s cell phone after hours, or text or email, all in a secure HIPAA-compliant manner,” he says.

That helps the personal touch that DPC enables.

“Our patients interact with the one nurse and the one doctor that knows them,” Dr. Rohal says. “They get a live person when they call our office, and it’s either their nurse or their doctor, not a chain of command nor a recorded message. Yes, the doctor answers the phone!”

He also appreciates the simplification that direct primary care offers.

“It removes third parties from being the primary payer for the most common, least expensive occurrences in health care,” he says. “Our patients enjoy a very simple primary care cost structure, with very transparent pricing for lab tests, medications, and radiology. Because we do not bill health insurance, we do not need to employ a large office staff dedicated to all the nuances of insurance reimbursement.”   

Dr. Rohal says the DPC model avoids “built-in incentives for price inflation” in the health care system.

“Our patients’ costs for lab tests are often 90 percent less than what they would otherwise pay if those prices were negotiated by a health insurance plan. We offer comprehensive annual fasting labwork for $17.50. A local radiology vendor offers X-rays for our patients at $45 cash at the time of service. Again, this is up to 90 percent less than what they would pay at insurance-negotiated prices.”

Simplicity is what Dr. Steven Manning, another SMI member who owns and operates Access Medicine in Williamston, North Carolina, likes best about his DPC practice.

“The best part is we have eliminated the middle man and there is no longer anyone between us and the patient.”

“Our practice model and operation is extremely simple … our members receive all of their care for a flat monthly fee,” Dr. Manning says. “Our lab fees are clear and patients are aware of them upfront and we provide many in-office procedures such as EKGs, spirometry for no additional cost to members. All this is possible because we do not bill insurance and instead work directly for the patient and provide them the most we can for their hard-earned money. This simple process is a much more predictable and stable income source than relying on insurance reimbursements which can be delayed and reduced. And the best part is that we have eliminated the middle man and there is no longer anyone between us and the patient.”

He breaks down AccessMedicine’s advantages into four aspects:

Access. “Our members are guaranteed same-day or next-day access to us when needed.”

Quality: “We aim to provide the best, most comprehensive primary care available anywhere.”

Transparency. “Our prices and the fees in our practice are clear and upfront. Patients love this!”

Affordability: “We set out to make our fees as affordable as possible so that anyone can take advantage of membership in our practice and obtain the best medical care.”

AccessMedicine’s slogan, “Direct Primary Care for the whole family,” also emphasizes that the practice is “a true family-medicine practice.”

“We offer membership for individuals, couples, and families. We also offer discounts for single parents and their children,” Dr. Manning says.” 

Editor’s Note: This article is not an endorsement of a particular medical provider. Members are free to choose their own providers. Members may be able to have some of their Direct Primary Care membership fees shared when they are receiving treatment for an illness or injury. Contact Member Services for more information and see the “Direct Primary Care” item in Section VIII.B of the Guidelines(SamaritanMinistries.org/guidelines).