Posted by: AtlasMD

December 5, 2013

Throwback Thursday_Cash Only Medicine

So we use the Internet here at Atlas MD. It’s part of our daily routine to Tweet with patients (if they choose) about ailments, conditions, and the like. We also use our web-based EMR to view patient records and do just about anything else that needs doing here at the office.

And since we’re online all the time, we learned about this whole Throwback Thursday thing (aka #tbt). So here’s one for you. Check out this article from 2004, almost ten years old now. It’s about one of the first cash-only primary care physicians, Dr. Vern Cherewatenko, and a patient named Chuck O’Brien. Back then, Dr. Vern charged patients $50 to come in and get a physical. It was that simple.


Cherewatenko switched to cash out of desperation in 1998. Back then his suburban Seattle practice was losing money fast. He and his partners realized they were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars alone just to process insurance paperwork.

“We said, ‘Let’s cut out this administrative waste,'” Cherewatenko told reporters. Before switching to cash-only medicine, he charged $79 for an office visit and got $43 from an insurance company months later, minus the $20 in staff time it took to collect the payment. He then started charging a flat $50 — without any worry of collection, because patients paid in full after every visit.

It was these types of stories that led Dr. Josh to open Atlas MD right out of med school. The idea was to practice medicine without interference. The biggest obstacle, though, has been resisting complacency and status quo mentality. Obviously direct care is not the norm, yet. We’re reminded of that when the 2004 CBS article says, “Is this the health care wave of the future? Probably not, experts say. Most people are content with monthly premiums and $10 copays; nine out of 10 doctors contract with managed-care companies.”

And sure, the experts might be right for now. But who’d have thought that our movement would gain as much support as it has in the last few years? Would those experts believed it if we told them we launched an EMR exclusively for these types of doctors? Seriously, you do remember how no one believed Copernicus when he said the Sun was in the center of the solar system? Or what about that time that Western Union said the telephone would never be practical? Lord Kelvin said radio had no future. Scientific America said the car had reached its full capabilities, in 1909. And try this one:

“[Television] won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.”

– Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century-Fox, 1946

Noticing a pattern here? It seems that when people in power are confronted with something that threatens their power, they dismiss the threat as trivial. But remember, over time, powerful ideas prevail. Every new direct care patient, every new direct care doctor, every new direct care practice will eventually prove our naysayers wrong.