DPC Q&A: Dr. Matthew McCarthy likes treating patients more than shuffling papers

Kathryn Nielson

Like other Direct Primary Care physicians, Samaritan member Dr. Matthew McCarthy opened his DPC clinic in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 2015 because he wanted to spend his day treating patients, not shuffling through hundreds of patients a day and mountains of paperwork just to stay in business.

“The DPC model skips the bureaucracy,” he says. “It cuts the red tape. In refusing to recognize any interference with the sanctity of the patient/physician relationship, this option returns family practice medicine to its root values of clinical excellence and compassionate knowledge of every patient. In every aspect of family health care, it increases accessibility, convenience, and affordability.”

Dr. McCarthy does not accept insurance, nor does he cram his day with the average 20-30 patients most doctors “see.” Instead, for a low monthly fee, his patients are members of a clinic that provides them with one-on-one time, no co-pays, medications at cost, and access to him whenever needed, “because illness and injury do not respect regular office hours.”

Dr. McCarthy graduated from the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2012 and serves as the medical director for the Valley Women's Clinics in Blacksburg and Radford, Virginia. He and his wife, Valerie, and their three children live in Blacksburg.

Here are his responses to our questions about his DPC practice.

How is your practice different than a typical one?

Direct primary care scraps the archaic and bureaucratic system of paying for health care in exchange for a simple, cost-effective, common-sense model. Essentially patients pay a monthly fee ($75 or less; we have pretty awesome family discounts!), and we take care of them without copays, without hidden fees, and with transparency. Our prices and quality of care have attracted patients from all corners of the insurance spectrum; we have many patients without insurance, many with catastrophic plans or health sharing ministries and many with “good insurance” through their employer. All see this as superior value for their health care dollar. 

My practice is a full-spectrum family practice; we see kids (lots of kids), do house calls for people who can’t get to the office, provide in-office procedures, offer discount labs/X-rays/medicines through local negotiated contracts, and only schedule six to 10 patients per day (so we have time!). 

What are some of the advantages to your practice that patients most appreciate?

I’d say the most obvious advantage is the amount of time and access I can offer patients. This allows a relationship that is foundational to accurate, efficient and meaningful health care. While we can confidently say that this will save the patient money (often a lot of money!) our relational and “small-scale” model allows us to provide high quality care without the built-in waste and inefficiency of the modern health care system. 

What are some of the problems with regulation of health care that you are able to avoid by having a DPC?

We are board-certified providers, and we offer the accepted standard of care; what’s different in this model is we are not required to justify every move we make to an insurance provider. Our care is dictated by the Hippocratic Oath, up-to-date medical research, and the patient’s needs! 

People have called this “old-school” medicine, and I’ve very much embraced this (come to my office and you’ll see I like old stuff!). This isn’t just about doing house calls with an old leather bag (which I do!). I want to be considered a friend, an accessible resource for the healthy family. I want my patients to know they can call/text/email and get access to a real person who is their doctor. We are in a small town and I think our practice fits well here because we know people and we’ve grown by word of mouth (we don’t advertise) and we’ve built a reputation. I think that’s so much better than having our cheesy faces photoshopped on a billboard offering some vague discount to attract patients! 

Why did you join Samaritan Ministries?

My wife and I joined Samaritan when I finished residency. I was self-employed, and this makes a ton of sense for us. We’ve now had three babies and have been very pleased with Samaritan. I have several hundred patients that use Samaritan for their health care and I have weekly interactions with people who are being cared for by the Body of Christ in a practical and often powerful way! I could tell you lots of stories …

What has your experience been with having a need?

Our experience with the needs we’ve shared has been overall very good. There is a bit of a learning curve, but every time the money has been there when we need it!

 Looking for a DPC doctor? This may help.

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