Although industry estimates indicate that as little as 3 percent of U.S. physicians have made the switch to direct-pay or cash-only business models, the number of doctors exploring practicing without insurance contracts is climbing, according to a pair of articles from Medscape Today.
For example, cash-only pioneer and family doctor Vern S. Cherewatenko, who launched SimpleCare in 1997, told Medscape that he receives two to three calls per day from doctors who want to learn more about how the direct-pay model works. That's in addition to the 1,500 providers who are already SimpleCare members, who each pay $125 the first year and $50 every year thereafter to receive educational materials and be matched with member patients willing to pay cash for their care.
"The cash-only movement is growing exponentially," added cardiologist Brian Ray Forrest, an adjunct professor at the University of Carolina School of Medicine at Chapel Hill, president of the North Carolina Academy of Family Physicians and founder of Access Healthcare, a direct-pay practice in Apex, N.C. "In the next 5 years, 25% of doctors will convert to a cash-only model," he told Medscape.
Forrest, who has written or spoken as an expert on the cash-only model everywhere from national medical business journals to The Oprah Winfrey Show, initially shared his advice with interested physicians for free. But sometime after he began receiving hundreds of physician inquiries per month, he began to charge. He now commands $3,500 per physician for a half-day workshop and estimates he's helped at least 50 doctors transition their practices during the past 5 years.
Kathryn Moghadas, RN, CHBC, principal of Associated Healthcare Advisors in Winter Springs, Fla., warned that success as a cash-only doctor isn't a given. "Most of what I see is doctors failing at it," she told Medscape.
Before taking the plunge, physicians should, at a minimum, determine whether the model is viable for their clientele, set fees appropriately and hone the necessary marketing skills they may not have needed in a traditional practice.