There has been a lot of discussion throughout the nation about delivering adequate health care services to patients in the system. Much of this involves billing and waiting to receive those services. Medical professionals are starting to think outside the box, and one of the ways they are doing this is through a concept called “Direct Patient Care.” One local physician, Dr. Pamela Herrington, M.D., has become the first doctor to bring this innovation to this area.
Many people complain about the medical world, having to wait weeks for an appointment, waiting long times in the exam room, then feeling rushed out the door. Often, they can’t get into their own doctor but have to see one of their partners. When people call the office, they feel there are barriers to contacting their doctor. Why can’t it be simpler than this?
People have heard of Concierge medicine, which seems to be just for the rich and famous. But there is a more affordable version that eliminates the middleman of insurance and administrators. Herrington has opened Pine Creek Family Medicine, the first Direct Primary Care practice in the area.
Webb Weekly interviewed Dr. Herrington about this new and exciting development she is bringing to this area.
Q: How did you get involved in DPC (Direct Primary Care) medicine?
A: I have been a Family Practice physician in traditional medical practices for nearly 30 years. When I decided to start my own independent practice, I knew it would be difficult to navigate the complicated world of medical insurance without a team of experts. Meanwhile, I had heard about Direct Primary Care, so I started investigating. I realized it was a breath of fresh air for myself and many of my patients.
Q: How so? What is DPC?
A: DPC (Direct Primary Care) is a membership model for health care. Patients pay a monthly fee, and in exchange, they get unlimited office visits and great access to their doctor. We don’t bill insurance for any of our services. Most DPC doctors limit their practices to about 300 to 500 patients, rather than the typical panel of about 2,000 patients, which allows us time to spend with our patients, working together. DPC doctors tend to see 5 to 10 patients per day rather than the usual 20 patients per day. Because we have fewer patients, we can usually see someone the same day or the next day if needed. And patients see their own doctor each time.
Q: Is this a new model of medical care?
A: Well, when you think of it, this is how medicine used to be delivered. We tease about doctors being paid in chickens, but it was basically a “fee for service” in which people paid for their care. There weren’t insurance companies dictating what doctors needed to do in order to get paid. DPC practices have been around for about 20 years, and there are at least 1,500 of these practices across the nation.
Q: What does it cost?
A: DPC practices each set their own prices, which are listed on their websites. Many offer blood work and dispense medicines at markedly reduced costs. For example, a Lipid panel might cost $25 at one place, yet our members pay only $2.54 through the lab we use.
Q: What services are included for your members?
A: We do routine physicals, sick visits, video visits, and whatever is needed. My favorite thing is procedures, such as mole removal, suturing, or removing skin tags. Those are all no-cost for members. I also enjoy working with people to improve their lifestyles and lose weight, and I’ve frequently taken people off medications. With this model, I have time to spend with my patients, working with them.
Q: Will you see patients who are not your members?
A: Overall, this is a membership-based model, but there are some services, such as my diet counseling, that I offer for non-members at a self-pay price. I also offer Botox, dermal fillers, and others at a fee. These are listed on our website.
Q: Do people still need insurance?
A: Yes, it’s important that people maintain some insurance for ER visits, referrals, and emergency care. But the care through our office is not dictated by insurance.
Q: What if someone has great insurance?
A: DPC is not for everyone. People can weigh their costs and whether they would benefit from being a member. For many who have high deductibles or are uninsured, this is an excellent option for saving money on personalized health care.
Q: Do you have examples of people who have benefited from this type of health care?
A: There are several examples, but one, in particular, comes to mind. We saved someone an ER visit. We saw him the same day for chest discomfort, examined him, did an EKG, and were able to reassure him. His cost? Nothing additional since it was included in his monthly membership. He also has had low-cost labs through our office, as well as coming for my low-carb diet discussion with family members.
Q: How can people learn more?
A: Our web page http://www.PineCreekFamMed.com has a lot of information. Or people can call 570-873-3440 with questions or to schedule a “Meet and Greet” time to discuss if we’re a good fit for you. And all are welcome at our Open House on Saturday, June 18th, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Pine Creek Family Medicine, 345 E. Central Ave in Avis, PA: Refreshments will be served.