Medical Care is Getting Personal

Image courtesy of [renjith krishnan] FreeDigitalPhotos.netThere is a way for Americans to get good health care for less money. Garrison Bliss, MD, a primary care physician in Seattle, was not happy spending all his time dealing with coding and insurance companies, rushing from patient to patient. He wanted patients be the focus of his day, so implemented a concierge-style practice with a fixed low-rate $65 monthly fee where patients have unlimited access to their doctor in person, by phone, or email. Bliss believes this practice model makes for happier doctors, healthier patients, and a reduction in expenses. He started his affordable practice in 1997, and his disgruntled physician cousin Erika, came on board with him.

Big corporate employers and industry employee unions have signed up with Qliance, which now serves some 35,000 patients. This concierge care model is an “escape hatch” for doctors fleeing the status quo, which encourages expensive and complicated solutions: unneeded tests, premature procedures, and excessive ER visits. Primary care should be directly paid for because that is the easiest and most efficient way to purchase a service. Qliance has opened a clinic at Expedia, which pays a fixed rate per patient for direct primary care for all employees – 95% of whom are satisfied with the program. Bliss believes that proper primary care should cost about $1,200 per patient per year. Medicaid patients pay Qliance $700 per person per year, and they now have an alternative to getting care at the emergency room.

Josh Umbehr, MD
Josh Umbehr, MD

Colin West, co-director of Mayo Clinic’s physician well-being program, states that the U.S. is facing a physician shortage in the tens of thousands. Medical students are not going into primary care because of the poor insurance reimbursement rates. This movement in direct care practice can solve the shortage of doctors, allowing them to do the work they love. Josh Umbehr, MD and Doug Nunamaker, MD of Wichita, KS opened a moderately priced clinic called Atlas MD. They see 1,800 patients at $50 each per month. His in-house pharmacy saves patients hundreds per year on medications. Umbehr says that the current health care system is worsening the physician shortage, and physicians will be “flocking” to use this new model of practicing medicine.
Von Drehle, David. “Medicine is About to Get Personal.” Health. Time, 22 Dec 2014. Web. 23 Dec 2014.

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