We’re all familiar with the ins and outs of conventional primary care. You go to your provider’s office for a brief visit, receive a diagnosis and maybe a prescription, and you’re sent on your way with minimal follow-up. You reschedule again for the next year. Most of us grow up experiencing some form of this medical care, and since primary care is the most common type of care offered in the U.S. by far, few of us ever bother questioning it.
However, there is a different approach that combines personalized attention with strong patient-provider relationships and prioritizes overall health and longevity. Direct primary care can address each patient’s unique needs and help steer you in the direction of prevention and optimal health, rather than merely addressing symptoms. In this way, it helps solve many of the shortcomings that have plagued conventional primary care for years.
The problems of conventional primary care
The U.S. spends more on health care than any other nation — almost twice as much — yet despite this, we still consistently rank below others on multiple health care metrics, such as population health outcomes and life expectancy. A major factor for this is how our conventional primary care model is designed.
For instance, the system of reimbursement that underlies many forms of conventional primary care rewards physicians not based on the quality of care, but on how many patients are seen. This leaves providers limited with how much time they can devote to each patient. As a result, patients often must endure long wait times and are typically rushed through their appointment.
It’s also not unusual for pharmaceutical companies to financially incentivize providers to write prescriptions of their medications. This can quickly lead to overprescribing and ballooning health care costs. Even worse, this leaves little room for prevention in conventional health care settings. While treating acute conditions often lead to better survival outcomes, the U.S. ranks below average in treating chronic, preventable conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity. As a result, many patients lack the tools required to make broader changes to their lifestyle or diet that could lead to longer, more permanent improvements to their health.
The direct primary care difference
Direct primary care is based on a simple concept: give each patient the unique care and attention they deserve. To accomplish this, direct primary care shifts away from the conventional model in the following ways:
Direct primary care emphasizes personalization
Every appointment begins with an in-depth conversation so that the provider can identify the patient’s particular health needs and goals. Comprehensive labs and custom services can then be used to further personalize care to first manage disease, then move towards health optimization. If unique upstream health markers are identified, the patient and provider can also proactively work towards prevention.
24/7 access is provided
The direct primary care model ensures that a provider or a trusted member of their team is always available for emergencies. This could mean email or texting capabilities, telehealth services, or even the flexibility to make a last-minute in-person appointment.
There are limited wait times for appointments
Because reimbursement is not based on patient volumes, direct primary care providers are able to set their own schedules and accommodate a manageable patient panel. Patients often have more freedom to see their provider when they want to without worrying about spending hours in the waiting room.
Providers follow up frequently
Unlike in conventional care, patient health is not seen as a set of symptoms to “prescribe and wave good-bye.” Instead, long-term health is the priority. That means that direct primary care providers are available for follow-up appointments whenever needed, whether that’s a week, a month, or a year after a previous appointment.
A strong patient-provider relationship is cultivated
Perhaps the most significant differentiator between conventional care and direct primary care is the time devoted to form real, productive relationships with each patient. With longer appointments, greater flexibility, and more frequent follow-ups, direct primary care allows patients and providers to establish the trust needed to work together toward long-term whole-person health.
Conventional primary care does not work for everyone — and was never meant to. It is designed to treat the greatest volume of patients as possible regardless of the quality of care provided. Direct primary care takes a different approach. It is designed to solve the shortcomings of our healthcare system and build on what we know works for promoting and sustaining lifelong health. Direct primary care services can come with a cost that can be substantial compared to an insurance-based service; however, over time, the benefits are numerous and an investment towards better care may help prevent future healthcare costs thanks to its emphasis on disease prevention and personalized care.
Schedule a meet and greet with one of our providers today to learn more about the difference of direct primary care.