Posted by: Atlas MD

November 30, 2022

How Text Messaging Reduces Post-Discharge Readmissions

There’s no feature update today, just some fantastic information that shows how simple tech protocols can have an outsized influence on patient health outcomes.

A recent study looked at the effects of using an automated-text messaging program to support primary care patients after being discharged from the hospital (as opposed to phone calls). The findings concluded that the use of an automated text message-based program was associated with 41% lower odds of readmission and the use of acute care resources for up to 30 days after being discharged. 

The study used a total of 1885 patients representing 2617 discharges. The patients each received automated check-in text messages from their primary care practice following their discharge for 30 days. This wasn’t simply one-way communication; any issues the patients had following discharge were communicated back to practice staff, and their needs were escalated accordingly.

Since ordinary telephone outreach is costly in terms of time, capital, and human resources, the automated text-messaging program offers a low-cost and scalable method of checking in on patients while reducing the burden on practice staff.

This is music to our ears, as external communication is something that puts a massive focus on. Alongside mass emailing and video calls, scheduled text messages are one of the key communication tools provides to ensure your patients are happy, healthy, and healing at all stages of treatment.

What do you think about the use of automated text messaging and digital tools to augment healthcare protocols? Do you think this is something that could be connected to ICD-10 in the future? And which diagnoses do you think would benefit most from a greater frequency of scheduled messaging?

Posted by: Atlas MD

October 13, 2021

Concierge Medicine and Direct Primary Care – What’s the Difference?

Two of the most healthcare prominent models that have emerged over the last few years to challenge the traditional insurance model are concierge medicine and direct primary care. It’s not uncommon for these two terms to be used interchangeably when referring to any sort of membership medicine. But while both models share a number of similarities – namely providing patients with direct access to their doctor – there are also some unique differences.

At their core, both concierge and DPC are membership-based healthcare models that are paid by the patient or the patient’s employer. They both allow patients to spend more time with their doctors, put an emphasis on preventative care, and provide patients with unrestricted access to their physician.

But the models diverge in a number of prominent ways. Concierge medicine – or retainer medicine – is something of a luxury medical service because of its high cost and premium offerings. Patients who enroll with a concierge medicine provider often still have to pay regular health care insurance and are subject to co-pays and deductibles.

Direct primary care, on the other hand, solves the burdens of insurance and overbearing administrators completely. The model allows patients ample time with their doctors and a wide range of physician services for a much lower fee and on a month-to-month basis. Including significant savings on procedures, medicines, and labs that can save more than the cost of the monthly fees.

To really highlight all the differences, we put together this comparison table.

DPCConcierge Medicine
Independent, local business – usually a small, independent clinic with a few physicians.Large, corporate, national network of doctors.
Physicians contract directly with patients and no one else. Middlemen like insurance companies and hospitals are removed.Doctors may also contract with patients, insurance companies, and healthcare corporations, resulting in increased overheads and fees.
Flat, low-cost monthly fee that covers a wide range of physician services.Higher monthly fees billed on a yearly retainer. Insurance may still be billed and co-pays and deductibles may apply.
Focus is on accessible, versatile, and low-cost healthcare.Less emphasis on specific value-added features.
After-hours access by text and phone.After-hours access by text and phone.
Same day and next day service scheduling.Same day and next day service scheduling.
Prices with labs are negotiated to pass on the best possible prices to patients.Additional services are offered at rates negotiated with insurance companies.
No long-term membership contracts.Annual contracts required.
Monthly fees of on average between $50 and $110 for individuals. An average of $75 per employee per month for businesses.Annual fee of at least $2500.
Specialist consultations are included through services like Atlas Consult.Access to specialists is charged separately. 

Posted by: Atlas MD

July 16, 2021

Direct Care and COVID-19

It’s no secret that the outbreak of COVID-19 caused massive disruption to healthcare systems around the world. Not only were hospitals overwhelmed, but with stay-at-home orders in place, many office-based doctors struggled to keep their doors open. Those same doctors scrambled to adapt their practices to the digital demands ushered in by the pandemic. Suddenly, telemedicine and virtual visits became the norm as a way of seeing patients and offsetting the sharp decline in office-based appointments.

Perfectly Poised for a Pandemic

For many, it was a disaster. But for direct primary care physicians, it was business as usual. Unlike most primary care practices in the fee-for-service arena, most DPC practices were already set up to provide virtual office visits through telephone and video consultations, and quick check-ups via text and email. Since patients pay for services through a monthly membership, there was no need for DPC doctors to worry about how to code and bill for these non-office visit services.

Not only was this ideal for keeping patients up-to-date with necessary health information, but it allowed DPC doctors to reassure their patients during an understandably difficult period. Having the infrastructure and protocols in place to communicate directly with patients was also a godsend for disseminating factual health information during a time when misinformation was being spread from all sides. As Paul Thomas from Plum Health DPC stated on LaternDPC’s blog post, “As primary care physicians, we are uniquely equipped with not only the knowledge to educate our patients about the coronavirus, but we also have the tools to spread excellent information at our fingertips.” 

Direct Care in a Post-Pandemic World

While office-based appointments have rebounded as vaccination rates increase and restrictions ease, many doctors have come to understand the pandemic-proof potential of direct care, which, in a lot of ways, is insulated from the economic uncertainty experienced by fee-for-service doctors throughout 2020. And while patient volume is on the increase in primary care, some believe that patients will continue to avoid non-essential in-office visits for some time.

Where does this position the direct care industry as the world learns how to live with the pandemic and progresses onward into 2021? In short – things are looking good. While hospitals in the U.S. could lose between $53 and $122 billion this year, DPC practices have actually reported a significant increase in patients and revenues. A good example of this is the Texan clinic, Vida Family Medicine. According to a report in the Houston Chronicle, patient inquires doubled even during the worst of the pandemic.

This is unsurprising for two reasons. The first being that many out-of-work Americans who no longer have employer-sponsored healthcare would be looking for more affordable healthcare solutions. And secondly, should another lockdown occur, patients will have readily available access to their doctor regardless of whether or not clinic doors are open.

Financial Stability

From a physician’s perspective, the financial stability offered by direct care should another lockdown occur is undeniably attractive. With lower overheads and fewer employees than a traditional physician, an uninterrupted stream of income in the form of monthly membership fees, and the ability to continue working regardless of stay-at-home orders, the number of doctors transitioning to direct care in the wake of the pandemic is steadily on the rise. Given the benefits to both patients and physicians, it’s unlikely that this trend is going to stagnate or reverse anytime soon.

Posted by: Atlas MD

September 18, 2018

Does #directcare Have Better Quality Outcomes?

#physicianburnout is an actual hashtag that doctors are using, and some physicians are calling for a movement to make sure that burnout prevention is discussed in every meeting. But are you aware that physician burnout isn’t just some faraway concept that affects someone’s brother’s cousin’s wife? In fact, it’s a little closer than you might think, and it influences more than just the physicians.

“The U.K. researchers found that burned out physicians are twice as likely to provide unsafe care and have unprofessional behavior. They’re three times more likely to receive low patient satisfaction ratings…” (Healthcare Dive)

We didn’t need an analysis to tell us that, right? It’s a serious problem, and it’s seriously influencing the way patients get care.

But is it true what they say? That #directcare doctors provide better quality outcomes?

Well considering that a Medscape study found that “nearly two-thirds of U.S. doctors were burned out, depressed, or both” due to “EHRs and long work days…that raise their stress levels,” it makes sense that #DPC doctors are more well qualified to provide healthier care to their patients in a healthier way.

Why? Because DPC physicians don’t have the same bureaucracy, buttons to click, or boxes to check. Small, private practices have reported less instances of burnout. “Only about 13.5% of physicians in such primary care practices in New York City reported burnout, compared to the national average of 54.4%” (Healthcare Dive reported from The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine).

So the next time you’re feeling a little overextended at work, remember that you have full control of your patient scheduling, the number of patients you see, and just how deeply you let burnout creep into your practice.

Posted by: AtlasMD

July 17, 2017

What Feels Like the End is Often the Beginning.

Remember the moment you realized you wanted to go to med school? It was definitive: helping people is what you wanted to do with your life. You were probably scared, a little nervous, but mostly excited out of your mind. You had a mountain to climb; you were under no false pretenses that it would be easy. But the steps were laid out for you. Take this class, learn this method, become excellent. So you did. You experienced endless sleepless nights of studying and the death of your social life. Even so, you put one foot in front of the other on this path so many before you had walked. You knew where it would lead; you couldn’t get there fast enough. And so when it came time to walk across the stage, your exhausted bones knew it was the end of an era. No more tests, no more classrooms.

You graduated! You did it! You reached the end of the road . . .  you’re laughing now, right? (Yeah, it was hard to even write that.) Everybody knows that not only does the road NOT end at graduation, but that’s when it gets steep. Really, really steep. Your internship, residency and fellowship were no joke; you often wondered if there were somehow more than 24 hours in your day because you seemed to fill up every single one of them and then some. You had to make some really hard decisions: would you specialize? In what? Who did you want to learn from in the real world? Where did you want to live? Where did your biggest opportunities lie? How could you care for people the best way you knew how?

You worked harder than you ever thought you could, poured over all your options. Again, you wisely followed the footprints of others who had run this marathon before. As the light at the end of the tunnel drew nearer, you watched as your career began to take shape.You fought for the letters that now followed your name and you believed in every word of the oath you took. And suddenly, although there was still so much to learn, you’d come to the end yet again. You were no longer under anyone’s wing. It was just you. And your patients.

Or so you thought. Read more

Posted by: AtlasMD

March 16, 2016

Bringing Hospitality to Healthcare: An Introduction


Hospitality. A noun. It means “the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.” It’s being nice. It’s treating people with kindness whether you know them or not. It’s going above and beyond to exceed expectations. Make sure people are taken care of. Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Literally, who wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that? 

It’s sad how little we actually see hospitality in action, though. We complain about its absence all the time. At the grocery store when the checkout person tosses our goods to the bagger and we’re just sure the pretzels have been crushed into teeny tiny bits. At the drive-through window, when the employee barely looks you in the eye as he hands you your drink… which happens to be dripping down the side… and then all over your hands. On the road when the kid on his cell phone pulls out in front of you without looking twice – or once for that matter. At the Dr.’s office as you’re shuffled in and out the door like you’re just another pretty face.

Think about each of these situations and how they make you feel. The lasting impact they have on you. Your mood. How you treat others as a result. It’s a slippery slope, and it all starts with hospitality. As a DPC doc, you can’t do much about most of those situations… except the last one. That might be the hardest one to remedy, too. The healthcare community isn’t taught how to be nice, so we tend to come off a little rough around the edges. You might also argue that while you didn’t go to school to fill out paperwork, you certainly didn’t go to school to learn how to schmooze and blow smoke, either. Read more

Posted by: AtlasMD

August 7, 2015

Misinterpretation Gone Wild. The HIPAA Edition.

Misinterpretation Gone Wild. The HIPAA Edition.


We cannot breathe a sigh of relief deep enough to adequately express how glad we are to be cutting the red tape that surrounds traditional healthcare. More specifically, HIPAA. Its rules and regulations are so convoluted that people don’t know which way is up… and that leads to interrupting a private conversation in a hospital cafe reprimanding the wife of a dying cancer patient for speaking publicly about a patient. Baffled yet? Yup, so were we.

An article posted recently on the NY Times gave several instances where HIPAA was misunderstood, and the consequences could have been dire. Take Ericka Gray’s story, for example:

In 2012, Ericka Gray repeatedly phoned the emergency room at York Hospital in York, Pa., where her 85-year-old mother had gone after days of back pain, to alert the staff to her medical history. “They refused to take the information, citing Hipaa,” said Ms. Gray, who was in Chicago on a business trip.

“I’m not trying to get any information. I’m trying to give you information,” Ms. Gray told them, adding that because her mother’s memory was impaired, she couldn’t supply the crucial facts, like medication allergies.

By the time Ms. Gray found a nurse willing to listen, hours later, her mother had already been prescribed a drug she was allergic to. Fortunately, the staff hadn’t administered it yet.

Now, we get what HIPAA is trying to do: keep personal health information private. And that’s a noble gesture. But there are so many hoops to jump through just to get it right that there ends up being more ways to get it wrong. In the DPC world, we love communicating with our patients how they prefer. Read more

Celebrating Freedom!


This year, Direct Primary Care Practices have put down roots in more towns across the U.S. than ever before, and if that’s not a massive reason to celebrate freedom, then we don’t know what is. But let’s take a minute to examine those freedoms a little bit closer.

DPC does more than give patients an alternative to traditional healthcare. It obliterates endless minutes spent in waiting rooms, hidden costs and anxiety-inducing response times. It provides a platform where patients truly feel like the priority they are instead of just one of thousands of folders in a filing cabinet. With the freedom to use means of communication like text, email, and Twitter DM, all roads lead to a better patient/doctor relationship. That being said, the patient isn’t the only one who benefits from DPC freedoms.

Providers in the DPC realm are happier than those within the walls of traditional healthcare. They have control over their schedule, never have to rush patients out the door, and have literally been given the gift of time. It’s no wonder they’re falling in love with medicine again!

The freedoms of Direct Care result in a better healthcare experience for those on the giving end… and on the receiving end. This weekend, celebrate being free to choose DPC.

The Easiest Way to Start a Business.

There’s no shortage of information. Let’s be honest; there are a million self help books, articles, blogs, tweets in the world that tell you how to be amazing. How to jump straight to the top, fix that problem, get those unattainable customers. There’s some really good advice mixed in there, but there’s also A LOT of fluff. The best way to get good at something new – fast – can be digested in three easy concepts. (A happy shout out to The Cauldron for these nuggets of inspiration.) It all boils down to preparedness.

Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes.

No, not making them (although that does come with the territory), but rather learning from the mishaps already committed by others. That means you watch. You evaluate what’s been done, how it’s been done, what went wrong, and how you can do it differently to avoid those same pitfalls. If you’re just starting out in Direct Care, you’re in luck. There are plenty who have gone before you to pave the road. And while most of them have succeeded, there have been a few failures to note. So get all the information you can. How, you’re wondering? So glad you asked.

Talk the Talk!

You don’t have to sit on the sidelines while you figure out your next moves. Ask questions, apply the answers in your head, and visualize the result. The answers you’re looking for aren’t hidden like buried treasure. You know those docs with clinics successfully off the ground? They want to see DPC grow, too. Take Atlas for example. We offer free training, consulting, and support to anyone who asks. While others charge a mountain of money for those same things, we don’t think you should be charged for not cutting corners on your homework. So go ahead, ask all the questions you want.

Jump All The Way In!

You’re ready now. You know what to do, you’ve done the research, you’ve thought about it all ad nauseam. So go do it. All of it.

What we’re trying to say is going all the way in with a proven DPC business model is much more effective than a hybrid model that say, for example, offers 1/2 insurance, 1/2 DPC. A hybrid clinic will probably struggle more because it’s not 100% of either model – kind of like always having one foot out the door in case it doesn’t work out. What’s more, starting with just a few services with a plan to add more (wholesale meds, labs, texting, email, etc.) later could actually hinder growth. Think of it this way. How do you expect to grow if you’re not putting 100% of the value you can offer your patients out there immediately? So wear your heart (and your services) on your sleeve, and don’t look back.

Time is of the essence when you’re making a life change such as starting or transitioning to DPC. But by wrapping your head around the ideas above, you’ll learn the ropes quicker than just dipping one toe in at a time. Much more refreshing that way, too – just ask those who have already jumped in!

Posted by: AtlasMD

April 15, 2015

What Matters More Than Features?

You can boast about features till you turn blue in the face. And you’ll probably get conversions from it. It’s important to tell your patients what you offer, but that’s not what they really want.

Truth be told, they want the same thing you do. They want the Direct Care lifestyle.

Sure, they like that you’re available 24/7, but what they really care about is that you’ll answer their text at 2 a.m. when their baby spikes a high fever. They like extended appointments, but they truly value being heard. They appreciate wholesale medication prices, but they tell their friends how their doc just keeps on trying to save them money.

So tell your patients about the features you offer. But sell them on the benefits. Luckily for Direct Care docs, backing up feature claims is built right into the business model. When you and your patient act as a team, your vision for your practice can really come to life.