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5 Lessons I've Learned as a DPC Doctor

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Becoming a direct primary care (DPC) doctor has been one of the most fulfilling decisions of my career. My journey from traditional, insurance-based medicine to DPC has been transformative, not only for me but also for my patients. Today, I want to share five valuable lessons that have reshaped my approach to health care and reinforced my belief in the power of personalized, accessible medical care that the DPC model offers.

1) Relationships Matter More Than Billing Codes

As a DPC doctor, I restore the value of the doctor-patient relationship. There's little time to get to know patients in the traditional insurance-based system. The DPC model allows me to invest in long-term relationships, spending as much time as I need during each visit. This depth of relationship enhances the quality of care and builds trust without the constraints of insurance-based quotas and billing codes.

For instance, I had a patient who struggled with managing her diabetes under the traditional model. She felt rushed and misunderstood in her previous appointments. In my DPC practice, we spent several appointments discussing her lifestyle, diet, and stress levels. Over time, we developed a comprehensive plan that she felt comfortable with, leading to significant improvements in her health. This level of personalized care isn't possible in the traditional system. 

2) Transparency in Health Care is Revolutionary

The traditional health care system needs more transparency, especially regarding costs. Patients often face unexpected bills that can be financially devastating. They might receive a bill for hundreds of dollars for routine procedures or lab tests, with no prior indication of the costs involved. This lack of transparency creates stress and confusion, making it difficult for patients to make informed decisions about their health care. 

Some may argue that the DPC model is not affordable for everyone, but its transparency can help patients better manage their health care costs. Patients are not just informed; they are empowered. Patients needing a routine lab test can see a straightforward price: $8 for a TSH lab. TSH with insurance coverage? Typically $200-plus! 

One of my patients, a young mother, was struggling with the high health care costs for her family. By switching to DPC, she could understand the actual costs of medical services and plan accordingly. She expressed immense relief at knowing she wouldn't be blindsided by unexpected medical bills, allowing her to focus on her family's health without the constant worry of financial strain.

3) Preventive Care is Paramount

In my DPC practice, I can focus heavily on preventive care by discussing lifestyle, diet, exercise, sleep, and mental health with my patients. This proactive approach helps prevent chronic diseases and promotes overall wellness. For instance, I have patients who, through regular consultations, have reversed their trajectory toward diabetes, lost weight, and improved their cardiovascular health, enhancing their quality of life.

I remember one patient, a middle-aged man with a family history of heart disease. Through regular visits, we worked on a comprehensive diet, exercise, and stress management plan. Over the years, he has avoided the health issues plaguing his family and become a health advocate within his community, encouraging others to take proactive steps to manage their health.

4) The Importance of Flexibility in Care Delivery

Living and working in a rural area, I've learned the importance of flexibility in delivering care. Whether it's offering home visits or telemedicine consultations, being adaptable ensures patients receive the care they need when needed. 

For instance, one of my elderly patients with limited mobility benefits considerably from home visits. Instead of struggling to arrange transportation, she receives her care in the comfort of her home. Another patient, a busy single mother, relies primarily on telemedicine appointments to manage her and her children's health care needs without taking time off work or arranging childcare.

This flexibility in care delivery is not just a convenience; it's a reassurance. It improves access to care and enhances patient satisfaction. Patients are more likely to seek medical advice promptly, preventing minor issues from escalating into significant health problems. This reassurance and the value placed on their health needs are key aspects of the DPC model. I no longer have to fight the clock at all hours, and I don't have to worry about the code to cover whatever I need to do to care for a patient. 

5) Health Care Should Be Personalized, Not Standardized

Every patient is unique, and their health care should reflect that. The insurance-based system's one-size-fits-all approach needs to be revised. I can tailor my care to meet each patient's needs with DPC.

I had a patient with multiple chronic conditions who felt lost in the traditional system. Each specialist treated a different aspect of their health, but no one looked at the whole picture. In my DPC practice, we spent time understanding how her conditions interacted and developed a comprehensive care plan. We identified the diagnosis that tied all her health concerns together, addressing her well-being. The result was a significant improvement in her health and quality of life.

Another example is a young athlete who came to me with recurring injuries. Instead of treating the symptoms, we worked to understand the underlying causes, including training techniques and recovery practices. By personalizing his care, we treated his injuries and helped him enhance his performance and prevent future issues.

Transitioning to the DPC model has been a game-changer for me and my patients. It has allowed me to practice medicine how I believe it should be – with compassion, transparency, and a focus on building lasting relationships. If you're frustrated with the traditional health care system and looking for a more personalized, accessible approach to medical care, I encourage you to explore DPC. It just might revolutionize your health and well-being as much as it has mine.

Why do you love (or dislike) DPC? Share in the comments.

Dr. Maryal Concepcion is the host of the award-winning @MyDPCStory podcast, a DPC advocate, and a mom of two. When she's not caring for patients or advocating for better health care, you can find her exploring with her family or building with Legos!

Image by GoodStudio / Shutterstock

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