Starting a Direct Primary Care Practice

What is the direct primary care (DPC) model?

You may have heard about direct primary care (DPC) at a conference or from a colleague. DPC is a type of primary care where a billing or payment arrangement is made between patients and providers, without sending claims to insurance providers. According to the American Academy of Family Practitioners (AAFP), the benefits of DPC fall primarily on the patient. Lower costs, better access to health care, and more time spent with physicians are just a few of the reasons patients are searching for a DPC practice in their community.

For new physicians or physicians looking to move away from the daunting fee-for-service insurance cycle, the DPC model provides opportunities to bill patients either monthly, quarterly, or yearly. Most services fall under the fee including comprehensive care management, coordination of care, lab services, and routine screening. Optional fees for more detailed services can be charged on an as needed basis.

Why choose the direct primary care (DPC) model for your new practice?

There is a growing population of healthcare providers that are looking to move away from the headaches of a traditional practice structure. The DPC model provides solutions for the most common pain points among physicians. Brian Forrest, MD, the founder of Access Healthcare, said, “the healthcare system as a whole is starting to recognize the value of DPC, with employers looking to it as an option to cut their healthcare costs while actually improving employee satisfaction. As data on health outcomes in DPC starts to be published we will see outstanding care of chronic disease, lower hospitalization and ER visit rates, and lower overall healthcare costs in the DPC model.”

4 Things to Know When Starting a Direct Primary Care Practice

  1. Learn from the experts
    If you are interested in learning everything you can about the DPC model, Dr. Forrest recommends getting hands-on experience from an expert. “The best advice is to not just read about it, or even just go to a conference about it. They should get an experienced mentor and ideally even see the model in action to understand how the infrastructure and office flow works differently than a traditional fee for service practice. Working with a network like Access Healthcare Direct can make a lot of the resources developed over years immediately available,” Forrest said.

  2. Start with a great structure
    In order to pass along the greatest savings to your patients while building a profitable practice, Dr. Forrest says keep your overhead low. “Especially when first building your DPC panel, you want your expenses to be almost nothing.” One way to accomplish this is to choose an electronic health record (EHR) that not only meets your needs as a primary care physician, but also has a great price structure.

  3. Choose the right EHR partner
    Choosing the right EHR for your new direct primary care practice is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. Here’s what Dr. Forrest, pioneer in DPC and organizer of the DPC National Summits, has to say about his experience choosing the right EHR partner for his direct primary care practice, “I started with Practice Fusion about 8 years ago. The product was in its infancy then and our practice was using another EHR which was difficult to navigate and which actually slowed down my workflow as compared to paper. When Practice Fusion was free, it definitely met my low overhead criteria and after using it for a couple of days as a trial, I found it easy to use and it actually made my documentation and workflow faster than paper. Over the years the features and functionality have improved a lot and though I have tried several other EHRs, Practice Fusion works the best for me for Direct Primary Care. Although they did start charging, that rate is still more affordable than any other option with those features.”

  4. Provide exceptional patient care
    No amount of time or money saving techniques can take the place of great patient care. Dr. Forrest adds, “create an exceptional patient experience where patients want to tell everybody they run into about how great DPC is.” One of the main reasons physicians are moving to the DPC model is the ability to get back to the basic reasons they became physicians in the first place - to improve the quality of life for their patients.

About Brian Forrest, MD

Dr. Forrest is currently CEO and Founder of the Access Healthcare Direct network of Direct Primary Care (DPC) practices. In 2001, he founded Access Healthcare, the first DPC family medicine practice in the country. He is a pioneer in DPC and organizer of the DPC National Summits. He is the current President of the DPCMH Association (DPCMH.org) a not for profit dedicated to education about the DPC model and to providing scholarships. He was the Founder and first Chair of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) DPC Interest Group. He served on the AAFP Commission on Quality and Practice Enhancement for 4 years concluding in 2017 and was the task force Chair on Telemedicine and the DPC FMIG Liaison. He has helped shape policy on DPC and the DPC Toolkit and Workshops for the AAFP. He also has serves on the Board of Directors of COSEHC and currently is leading the DPC Cohort of the IMPACT TCPI PTN for CMS . He served as NC Academy of Family Physicians (NCAFP) President in 2012. He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UNC and ECU and has taught medical students for 17 years. His practice has been one of 25 nationally designated Cardiovascular Centers of Excellence since 2009 and he has been a national thought leader in cardiovascular disease with over 200 lectures on these topics in the last 5 years.

To learn more about Dr. Forrest’s DPC network, visit www.accesshealthcaredirect.com

About Practice Fusion
Practice Fusion is the #1 cloud-based ambulatory EHR platform in the U.S. supporting over 20,000 medical practices in delivering better care to millions of patients. With a best-in-class satisfaction rate, Practice Fusion is committed to delivering intuitive and easy-to-use health IT solutions to small, independent medical practices.

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