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By The Direct Primary Care Journal (DPC Journal)
Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a ‘mass-market variant of concierge medicine, distinguished by its low prices’ — typically, most DPC offices cost less than $100 per month. These medical offices remove many of the financial barriers to ‘accessing’ care whenever care is needed. There are no insurance co-pays, deductibles or co-insurance fees. DPC practices also do not typically accept insurance payments, thus avoiding the overhead and complexity of maintaining relationships with insurers, which can consume as much as $0.40 of each medical dollar spent. Simply stated, the biggest difference between ‘direct primary care’ and retainer based practices is that DPC takes a low, flat rate fee whereas concierge models, (although plans may vary by practice) – usually charge an annual retainer fee and promise more ‘access’ to the doctor.
The core result of the DPC practice model is that physicians and patients have the opportunity to spend more time interacting. The consequence of spending more time with each patient, however, is that family physicians practicing in a DPC setting typically have much smaller patient panels than they would in the traditional FFS system. Generally, DPC physicians have a panel of between 600 and 800 patients. In typical FFS settings, the patient panels tend to range from between 2,000 and 2,500 per family physician. This often results in patients losing access to their personal physicians if they elect to not participate in the DPC contract or if their physicians cannot take on new DPC contract patients.
Patients who do receive personal care in the DPC practice will find their primary care services significantly altered when compared with care received in traditional practice settings (e.g, increased time spent with their family physicians). There are a number of reported outcomes of increasing visit time, including improved patient experience of care and improved clinical outcomes as patients become more engaged in managing their own health care.