Doctor gets off the 'assembly line' with direct primary care practice

For one California doctor giving up her traditional practice and switching to a direct primary care model got off her off the "assembly line." For another, the change put the "heart back into medicine."

These are two benefits of the direct primary care model, as it’s now practiced in two cities in California. For patients the result has been house calls and no waiting to see the doctor. With the direct care model, doctors don't take insurance and usually charge a relatively small monthly fee.

The direct primary care membership fee sets back her patients a mere $59 a month, Emilie Scott, M.D., a doctor who practices direct primary care in Irvine, California, told KQED Radio.

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Doctors considering this approach to medicine shouldn’t be put off because of their medical school debt, insists Scott. Plus, she feels she’s able to practice medicine in a way that’s in greater alignment with her values.

That's because for Scott taking a membership fee-based approach to treating her patients “puts the heart back in medicine.” Scott contrasts her experience today with the experience of practicing medicine at a traditional practice where she felt she had to “see patients in a rapid style” and notes that that experience “wears on you.”

About 400 miles north in Half Moon Bay, Lorraine Page, M.D., who also practices direct primary care, generally treats her patients in their homes, which also allows her to help them with safety issues, such as getting a chair lift set up in the home of one of her elderly patients. Page says it has allowed her to get off what she calls the “assembly-line, volume approach” that is responsible for some of the burnout in colleagues. 

One of the benefits Page’s patients experience is they get more face time with her. Of benefit to Page is that she doesn’t need to hire a biller, since she only takes cash for payment, and that she works shorter days because her patient load has gone down significantly, according to KQED Radio.