More member doctors have opted for the Direct Primary Care model

Kathryn Nielson  ·  May 29, 2018

Ask any doctor why they pursued medicine as a career, and most of them will likely say they wanted to help people.

It’s hard to imagine that government overreach and third-party regulations appealed to them. Still, that’s what many doctors find themselves battling on a daily basis in their practices.

But a growing number of doctors are choosing to do medicine differently.

The Direct Primary Care model gives doctors the freedom to spend more time with their patients, and it gives patients easy and, often, 24/7 access to their doctors for non-catastrophic medical needs.

Samaritan members Dr. J. Ashley Parker, Dr. Holly Parker, and Dr. Matt Bain are just a few joining the crusade to get back to the practice of traditional medicine where the doctor works for the patient and the patient feels cared for.

Getting out from underneath the health care machine also affords doctors the opportunity to offer lab and imaging resources at significant savings to their patients. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on an MRI, for instance, DPC doctors have access to these services for hundreds of dollars. And, in some places in the country, certain lab tests are as low as $5.

The freedom to integrate faith into their practice is of even greater value, all three physicians point out. Instead of filling out unnecessary paperwork and scrambling to see as many people as possible in a day just to keep the office lights on, some DPC doctors treat patients on both physical and spiritual levels.

The doctors recently agreed to answer some questions for us, which are posted on our blog. Here’s a summary of their thoughts.

Drs. J. Ashley and Holly Parker of Freedom Family Medicine

Time is everything for Dr. J. Ashley Parker.

He and his wife, Dr. Holly Parker, were looking for freedom to spend more time with patients, getting to know them on a more personal level, and sharing Christ with them.

They finally found those things with their own practice.

After spending 13 years working in traditional family practice, Ashley started Freedom Family Medicine, a Direct Primary Care practice in Wilson, North Carolina in 2016. His wife, Dr. Holly Parker, also joined the practice. She not only takes care of patients, but also manages much of the business side of the practice.

Running a DPC removes much of the weight of that latter aspect while also allowing for a more personal and spiritual touch.

“One of the biggest headaches in medicine today is ever-increasing health care regulation,” Ashley says. “When doctors are paid by third-party payers (insurance, Medicare, Medicaid), they are required to collect lots of information and document lots of things that often are not pertinent to the reason a patient is coming to the office that day.”

The DPC model also keeps patient loads light, thus solving the problem of limited appointment time. The Parkers schedule one patient per hour with room to accommodate an extra patient each hour for urgent cases that may come up. In exchange, patients get more thorough care and aren’t limited to just office visits. They also have 24/7 direct access to their doctor, and office visits or visits to the clinic after hours are available when appropriate.

“There is a peace of mind in knowing that we had plenty of time to treat each patient’s needs,” Ashley says. “They don’t leave our office with a list of questions or problems that were not handled.”

Perhaps their biggest triumph is the ability to relate to patients on a much deeper, more spiritual level.

“Freedom Family Medicine is a Christ-centered practice,” the office’s website says. “We believe that faith is central to life and, as such, it is a big part of medicine. In all we do, we strive to put God first and to love others as we love ourselves. At Freedom Family Medicine, we hope that you will feel as if you’re taking a step back into the past when doctors had the freedom to practice medicine to its full extent and the time to focus on good health care for the entire family.”

Another advantage to DPCs is that they work well with patients who are in health care sharing ministries.

“The health sharing ministries plug in really well with DPC both from a financial standpoint and from a worldview standpoint,” Ashley says. “Paying the doctor directly for services, instead of a third party that is only interested in profit, is in the same thought process as paying directly for a member’s health care bills, instead of paying someone else who then pays the bills.”

Dr. Matt Bain of Mid-Valley Direct Primary Care

For Dr. Matt Bain of Mid-Valley Direct Primary Care in Albany, Oregon, the idea of DPC is in part a matter of simple economics.

“It makes sense to purchase insurance for catastrophic events, but it’s a very expensive way to pay for routine care,” he says.

“I have learned that I can choose between two very different models for operating a practice. One must please a third party. The other simply works for the patient. It is impossible to do both.”

Dr. Matt’s patients pay a monthly membership fee of $70 for an individual with a maximum of $160 for a family (and no limit on the number of children through age 24). A membership with his clinic gives them access to him by phone, office visits, and text messaging and significant savings on services like MRIs, X-rays, and lab work.

“I have learned that I can choose between two very different models for operating a practice,” he says. “One must please a third party. The other simply works directly for the patient. It is impossible to do both.”

The DPC model means no third-party insurance contracts, greatly reduced overhead costs, freedom to choose one’s own doctor, and a smaller patient load providing existing patients more time and attention.

Dr. Bain sees efficiency as another major benefit to the DPC model for both doctor and patient because of fewer trips to the doctor’s office, phone consultations in place of in-person visits, and follow-up from imaging services in as little as two days.

“The care is much faster, much cheaper, and I spend more time with the patient because I am not spending it trying to justify things that the patient and I decided on to an insurance company,” he says. “I have witnessed firsthand how this approach translates into significantly better quality than what I used to deliver.”

Finally, there are no third parties rationing health care services. The patient becomes the focus, not the decisions of third-party payers.

“In the old model, the true client is the third-party payer,” Dr. Matt says. “Finally, there are some free market principles available in health care!

“It has been discouraging to see patients getting pushed out of the way as third parties usurp more and more control of our health care system. That is why I’ve decided to create a different type of practice. One that restores the proper perspective of what the patient-physician relationship is all about.” 

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