Okay, so you’re sold on at least four key benefits of practicing direct care and/or concierge medicine. However, in order to realize your own direct care success, you’ll need to make certain preparations.
4 Key Benefits To Practicing Direct Care
- Less time dealing with insurance headaches (zero if you cut the red tape entirely, like we have).
- More time spent with fewer patients (we’ve found it profitable to have as few as 600 patients).
- Increased income (which we’ve broken down for you here).
- Lower malpractice costs (makes sense, since DPC docs don’t have to fly through 50 patients a day just to stay in business)
Don’t be intimidated. You can make this a reality. A) We’ve created software to help address a few items directly. B) We are happy to refer to you the necessary professionals to help with the others. C) If you still have questions, we’re glad to talk. Without further ado, here’s a helpful checklist for transitioning into or starting an insurance-free practice.
7 Things Transitioning Direct Care Physicians Need To Consider
- Legal concerns: You should have sound legal team in place that is knowledgeable with health care, managed care, Medicare, corporate law, and even intellectual property. The legal team will help you start your practice, but regular contact is necessary, being as the legal landscape is constantly shifting. Granted, if you are starting a hybrid practice, you will still have to deal with Medicare, something not be taken lightly. And, additionally, if you are transitioning and not just opening a new practice, you will have to account for patients who don’t want to come with you.
- Practice structure: First, you have to decide if you are an insurance-free practice or one accepting hybrid payment. We do not encourage the latter, for a few specific reasons, one being that it creates the tiered system that critics often cite as “rich people medicine”. With Atlas MD, our goal is to make healthcare more affordable and more effective for everyone. Obviously, your pricing and offering will be affected by location, demand and myriad other factors. However, we have provided a breakdown of our pricing and subscriptions which will give you a place to start. This includes what to charge each type of patient, which provides flexibility in determining how many patients a doctor should see. For instance, we charge twice as much for patients over 65. Theoretically, if a doctor only saw this type of patient, they’d need half as many subscribers.
- Low-cost medical services. This part of the operation takes business savvy and persistence. You need to hit the ground running and make good contacts. In one case, Dr. Doug found a company willing to let us book their unused MRI machines at a reduced rate. This takes after the Travelocity model. Companies with heavy equipment want to charge a premium rate for a service, which they do, to insurance companies who pay higher rates determined by chargemasters. But a direct care doctor can negotiate a lower cash rate that behooves everyone.
- Major medical coverage. You might be asking yourself, Wasn’t I getting away from insurance? Yes and no. Patients still need coverage in case they have a serious accident or develop an unforeseen health problem. To effectively attract patients, you need to wrap your head around the insurance premium market. Plans change every year, and now that Obamacare is being enacted, you’ll have another layer of complexity. In our case, we’ve been working with a leading insurance provider to create a complementary wrap around plan with a low monthly premium and high deductible. Think of it more like auto insurance, something that doesn’t break the bank, and that we use rarely.
- Marketing. You will need to budget for a website at least, more if you have available funds and believe you’ll get a positive ROI. In our case, most of our marketing comes from us tweeting and using Facebook during the day! This is something you can make time for now that you’re not knotted in all that red tape. However, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with those platforms in order to reap the benefits. Keep in mind, if you open a direct care facility, expect a decent amount of media coverage. Direct care truly is a bipartisan solution to a broken healthcare system, and news sources love a rare segment that is both optimistic and appealing to people of differing views. Lastly, check out I Want Direct Care, a site we created to track doctor supply and patient demand nationwide
- Health IT. You’ll need an EMR that’s dedicated to direct care. In our case, we’ve overseen the development of a cross-platform compatible, browser based software called AtlasMD. That might sound confusing, but it means you can schedule appointments, view patient files, request labs and more right from your smartphone, your tablet or your computer. This opens up the possibility of offering house calls without having to sling around paperwork in your car. Oh, and there’s more good news. This EMR takes care of the last thing on our checklist…
- Billing. The beauty of DPC is the absence of insurance dependency. But how do you bill? Easy, you use AtlasMD. Our EMR software has an automated billing feature built right in. Each patient is connected with a credit card. They get email invoices, payment confirmations, the whole nine yards. When they come in and get labs, you assign the item to their file and that’s it. Atlas MD makes sure they are notified and that they pay for services rendered. Receipts are automatically generated and emailed. If someone misses a payment, both parties are notified and you can take the necessary steps.
Yes, starting a successful direct care takes work. But what rewarding endeavor doesn’t? Like many things of genius, its success lies in its projected simplicity. But, in order to get patients in the door, paying cash for good medicine, you will need to do a certain amount of foresight, planning and determination. Good news, though. We believe you will find more joy in doing the thing you spent years learning how to do. You’ll make more money in the long run. Most importantly, your patients get a doctor who has time to talk with them, one who can actually make the proper diagnosis, and who can tell them whether they even need to come in or not. Remember, you’re getting paid for your accessibility and knowledge, not for running patients through a commercialized treadmill.