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The Direct Primary Care model of practicing medicine is known for three things: more time with patients, lack of government involvement, and low pricing on services.
It is the promise of being able to offer better patient care that lured Drs. Brandon Alleman, Nick Tomsen, and Kent Zieser to the DPC model.
Dr. Nick Tomsen would never have guessed he’d end up starting Antioch Med in Wichita, Kansas. He was planning on working with a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) before Dr. Brandon Alleman approached him about starting a DPC clinic instead.
“It became clear that I couldn’t offer the type of care to the patients I was hoping through the typical insurance model, even in a subsidized clinic model like an FQHC with lots of community resources,” he says. “Transparency of pricing for patients, affordability by cutting out middle men and red tape, and ultimately time to build meaningful relationships with patients—none of these things could I have accomplished in the insurance practices that I looked into and considered prior to starting DPC at Antioch Med.”
The Antioch Med patient load is kept light, serving 600 patients as opposed to the more common 2,500, to ensure that each one gets the care they deserve. By doing this, they are able “to work around the patient’s schedule and give unparalleled access.”
Dr. Brandon Alleman knew while still in medical school that practicing medicine in a DPC clinic was the way he wanted to go. The best care at the best value was his goal with the DPC model.
“It is the type of practice that best aligns the incentives of patients and physicians,” Dr. Alleman says. “Everyone agrees that there are many problems with health care. I think one of the main ways that this can be fixed is by patients spending their own money for health care and searching for the best value. Our clinic has been successful because we have always tried to deliver value to our patients. Not only in the cost, but also in the quality and caring they receive from our clinic. Starting in a more traditional practice would have made delivering this value impossible.”
To that end, Drs. Alleman and Tomsen offer “unparalleled access” via instant message, video chat, face-to-face interaction around a patient’s schedule, house calls, phone calls, and even middle of the night office visits to avoid the ER.
“It really is the closest thing to having a doctor in the family,” they say.
They also offer services outside of what is included in membership at 50 to 90 percent off by cutting out third parties and negotiating directly with facilities that provide those services. For example, a blood count only costs $1.70, and a metabolic panel $3.75. Similarly, a chest X-ray through Antioch is $50 and and MRI L-Spine is $375.
And because procedures such as biopsies, stitches, EKGs, and more are often able to be done in the office, patients save even more money.
Antioch Med also offers a pregnancy package that includes prenatal care and inpatient deliveries for both current practice members and non-members.
Dr. Alleman and Dr. Tomsen believe the DPC model is the only way to achieve the level of care and cost-savings that their patients desire.
“DPC is a return to the good old days of medicine when family doctors did house calls, knew their patient’s whole families, delivered babies, and treated their patients as people and friends instead of a number or a disease,” they say.
Read the full Q&A with Drs. Tomsen and Alleman
Dr. Kent Zieser began practicing internal medicine in 2004. In 2016 he switched to the DPC model like so many other doctors “because I saw the practice of medicine from both sides of the fence declining in value,” he says. He blames decreasing patient satisfaction in his previous practice on long wait times, both for an appointment and in the waiting room, and shorter times with the doctor.
At Exactus Physicians, his DPC practice in McKinney, Texas, Dr. Zieser will typically spend 30 minutes with a patient, but a visit can extend up to 90 minutes.
“Good health care takes time,” he says.
For issues not requiring an in-office visit, patients have direct access to Dr. Zieser 24/7 via email or phone call.
Dr. Zieser says this type of “unprecedented access” to a doctor often helps to prevent the need for hospitalizations and other specialty referrals.
Part of great patient care is being able to offer services for much lower prices than a traditional doctor would be able to. At Exactus Physicians, services such as unlimited office visits, chronic disease management, rapid tests for strep, flu, and mono, and much more are offered to patients as part of their paid monthly membership.
Dr. Zieser has also negotiated lower prices for labs and radiology services, with savings up to 90 percent on imaging and lab fees. Annual bloodwork runs less than $30, and patients can get an MRI for $400, a far cry from the regular price of $2,600.
“If we had contracts with insurance companies, we would be legally obligated to charge higher prices,” he says.
When Dr. Zieser chose the name Exactus Physicians for his DPC clinic, he did so deliberately. Right now he’s the only doctor at the practice, “but as the name suggests, the plural name gives me room for growth as I foresee more and more doctors looking to move to this kind of model,” he says.
“Later I plan on bringing in more providers and services as needed."
Read the full Q&A with Dr. Zeiser.
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 Ministry Guidelines.