SEPTEMBER 24, 2015 – In the Center’s quest to learn more about the direct primary care (DPC) model and movement, four members from the Center’s team traveled to Marblehead, MA in early August to visit Gold Direct Care. Gold Direct Care is located in the heart of downtown Marblehead, in a beautiful building with a quaint courtyard. The office was thoughtfully designed; the front room was saturated with natural light and the waiting area looked more like a modest living room instead of a doctor’s waiting room. Megan, the practice’s nurse, one of three employees, immediately greeted us as we entered, and led us back to Dr. Gold’s office.
“Thank you so much to Erin Sullivan, Ph.D. Jessica Alpert Paola Abello and the rest of the Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care for their excellent post and the opportunity to tell my story and be open to learning about the Model of Direct Primary Care and hopefully expanding it in Massachusetts. We know that having support from an institution like Harvard Medical School will only help this model grow.” ~Dr. Jeff Gold, MASS.
Presently, Dr. Jeff Gold is the sole provider at Gold Direct Care. A family physician by training, he attended the University of Massachusetts Medical School. After completing his residency in Arizona, he moved back home to Massachusetts and worked for the North Shore Physicians Group. However, Jeff was continuously frustrated with the amount of time he spent coding instead of delivering care, and after much thought and research, decided to leave the traditional system and open a DPC practice. Subsequently, Gold Direct Care became the first DPC practice in the state.
After our customary introductions, re-introductions, and an occasional fist bump, Dr. Gold dove right into the details of his practice’s direct primary care model. It was easy to see that Dr. Gold loves what he does; as he spoke, his voice was laced with fervor and passion. He was most animated, however, when he described the kind of care he is able to deliver through his model. Dr. Gold is relentlessly dedicated to improving care delivery and the patient experience, particularly in terms of access. During our visit, Dr. Gold was frequently checking his phone, sending texts and making short calls to his many patients. His goal is to be available for patients whenever they need his services. To illustrate this point, he told us about receiving a text from a patient at 6pm about his daughter’s sudden onset of ear pain. He invited the father and daughter to meet him at his office at 7:20pm that same evening so that he could examine the child and resolve the issue.
Texting, Rubicon MD, and Twine Health are examples of the types of technologies that Dr. Gold actively incorporates into his practice. However, Dr. Gold insists that these technologies do not replace the human aspect and quality of care, but rather, facilitate it. In our other encounters with DPC the Center’s research team has learned that innovative technology is one of the hallmarks of direct primary care, and that there are many tools available. Our Center’s Innovation Director, Paola Abello, noted that what struck her about the DPC model “is the flexibility in allowing doctors to innovate. It’s a platform that allows you test innovations while focusing on the patient-doctor relationship. If I were a startup, I’d be thinking of ways to work with this model.”
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Direct Primary Care models across the country face unique challenges and successes going forward: negotiating state laws and policies on insurance, financial viability, replicability, and concerns about quality and oversight. As the first DPC practice in the state of Massachusetts, Gold Direct Care has faced its share of challenges and successes. However, this visit modeled another important, and perhaps different, core belief in the DPC movement: health is accomplished through a reliable and trusting partnership between physician and patient.