Many people become doctors to help others get and remain healthy. They commit to the long journey of studying, residencies, and everything else it takes to achieve this goal. Doctors do not want any interference when it comes to treating patients.
Some doctors avoid all obstacles by committing to direct primary care. This route is more expensive as patients pay for each service provided. However, some doctors claim that this alternative puts your health first.
Direct primary care is when patients pay doctors directly for medical treatment. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, DPC is a business model for medical practices to charge their patients on a monthly, annual or contractual basis. Under those terms, patients are offered a range of medical treatment and care identical to other hospitals and clinics.
“We think about health as what we are paying now without considering what we pay in the future. If you do not make that upfront investment in your health, you will have to at some point pay that back. That number is a lot greater when the problems become complicated at the end,” Dr. Gerald Alcoque Jr., owner of Florida Concierge Medicine and Wellness said.
The benefit of direct primary care is a better patient experience. This alternative provides more access and time with your doctors. “People tell me all the time, ‘I have insurance. Why should I pay monthly for a doctor?’ I respond, ‘Pull out your phone, call their office, and book an appointment with them tomorrow,’” Alcoque said. “No one can do it. That is something you can do at Florida Concierge Medicine and Wellness.”
Most DPC practices do not take insurance. Alcoque is among many medical professionals who believe medical insurance has hindered more than helped people seeking care. According to Alcoque, hospitals and doctors who open their practice would sign contracts with medical insurance to get patients in the insurance network.
Before he launched his own DPC practice, Alcoque was a primary care doctor in a hospital. He received pressure from insurance companies and the hospital administration to discharge patients before they were 100% ready. Dr. Sabine Elisee, another DPC practice owner, experienced moments where insurance companies operated with their pockets in mind, instead of the patients.
What led Elisee to launch Cornerstone Medical Group in Coral Springs, Florida is an incident where a woman did not get a follow-up call regarding her health.
“I wanted to make sure there is no more fragmented medicine. The physician doesn’t know what the cardiologist is doing, who is not speaking directly to the radiologist and isn’t aware of what the optometrist is doing. It doesn’t make sense. How can we all be treating the same person but we are not talking to each other?” Elisee said.
During the fall 2017, Elisee was working for a hospital. She saw a 60-year-old woman about a mammogram. On the first test, Elisee and the hospital team saw something abnormal in the results. The patient decided to not share the results with her family and scheduled another mammogram a week later. The patient took a second mammogram test with another doctor in that hospital. The patient never got a follow-up call regarding those results. She believed she had breast cancer.
In January 2018, the patient found Elisee in the parking lot. In tears, she explained to Elisee that no one contacted her about her results. She was trying to get an appointment with Elisee. The hospital did not honor her request. The patient could not enjoy the holidays because she believed she had limited time. In her head, she was already planning her funeral.
Elisee gave the patient her cell phone number and sought out the results. An hour after the parking lot encounter, Elisee found the results. The patient did not have any terminal diseases.
“That was the moment where I said ‘This isn’t right.’ She had three months of unnecessary worry. The lasting effect of this mistake is that she developed a mistrust in the healthcare system,” Elisee said.
The DPC movement is gaining popularity. According to DPC Frontier, there are 1,665 DPC practices across 48 states. Most people may not be aware of this option for their medical needs. However, doctors like Alcoque and Elisee are not only advocating for DPC to be one of many choices, but for it to be the only choice to improve the health options, needs and outcomes of patients.