On March 18, Doug Nunamaker, M.D., co-founder of Atlas MD, a direct-care family practice in Wichita, Kan., traveled to Topeka to testify before the Kansas House Insurance Committee about the potential of the direct-care model to help physicians overcome many challenges in today's practice environment, AAFP News Now reported.
"We've tried to create something that's reproducible to help foster change. If we can get past this 'You've abandoned us' mentality and show that we're trying to provide a model to save family medicine--if we can get that message out there--then we will have succeeded," he said.
Indeed, the direct primary care (DPC) model--which grants patients full access to a broad range of primary care services in exchange for a retainer fee--has received its share of praise and criticism. While direct care has been used in several specialties, one of the model's prominent supporters is the American Academy of Family Physicians, which issued a policy in March outlining the following benefits of direct or retainer-based care to physicians and patients:
- The DPC revenue model can stabilize practice finances, thus increasing the emphasis on patient care while spending less time handling billing issues.
- Free of insurance-reimbursement restrictions, physicians are able to spend more time with their patients, both in face-to-face visits and through phone or electronic communications.
- Patients face fewer financial barriers to receiving primary care, as all routine care is covered under a flat retainer fee while services the office can't provide are covered under a lower-premium high deductible health plan.
- The model has the potential to improve health outcomes and lower costs by emphasizing the physician-patient relationship.
"For these reasons, the DPC model is consistent with the AAFP's advocacy of the PCMH [patient centered medical home] and a blended payment method of paying family medicine practices," the policy concluded.