Lately, we have been very very busy with the virus and bacterial party that is going on around town. Did you hear? The world is full of influenza B, strep, laryngitis, bronchitis, pink eye, and a wicked sore throat viral infection that has been coming with a nice 2-3 week cough. Yuck! You may be one of the sick ones. You definitely need to wash your hands fervently right now because the bugs abound.
So what is the role of your DPC doc this time of year (and all year for that matter)?
We are here!
We are busy, yes, but we are not so overloaded that you will be sent to urgent care when all you need is a phone call. When I worked in corporately-owned medicine, our clinic had 5,000 patients. We typically had 25-30 on the schedule on a typical midwinter day so we had to start sending coughs and colds to the emergency room or urgent care by 10 AM because we were already up to our eyeballs in visits. The emergency room is no place for a sinus infection. This was not effective care for anyone.
This is what we do differently:
1) We know you
We know if you are prone to lung infections or sinus infections, we know that you are a person to get sick quickly and dangerously or if you never get sick and this is really unusual for you to call. We know if you prefer early antibiotics or none at all.
2) We listen
If you don't have a fever over 101, shortness of breath, a history of asthma or other concerning symptoms we can call you first and see if a phone visit will help us gather the information needed treat you over the phone. You might get a text message with details about your symptoms so we can make the right decision about a visit or a phone call even easier.
3) We are your advocates
If you are not getting better with the plan we discuss at your visit, you can talk with us right away and see what adjustments need to be made. In the traditional model, you would be paying for another copay, another visit, or moving on to urgent care. This is not necessary when you have a doctor you can trust to be there when you need it. If you have to go to the emergency room because we are really worried we call ahead, tell them who you are and give details they need to know. We follow up after you are seen and make sure we can see you soon as you recover.
We have some people that see direct primary care as a bridge to when they have "good" insurance again. This is a limited way to see DPC services. I personally have had "good" insurance for 4 years AND my DPC doctor. Why? Not because I am rich, lucky, or entitled. I pursued adding a DPC doc to my insurance even when I was between jobs and building this practice. It was a stretch on the finances, but worth it.
Once my daughter got super sick with a stomach bug when she was really little. She had vomiting and diarrhea for five days, much beyond the usual 24 hour bug. She had pain near her appendix. I was worried. Like most doctor moms - I thought she was either "fine" or dying of something major, like appendicitis. I called my insurance-based doctor. The phone tree led to a message. The message led to an RN. The RN read off an algorithm and told me to go to the ER. It was not that the advice wasn't sound or that the steps were inefficient. What I wanted was to talk with another health professional that treated me like a person, like the worried doctor mom I was. I wanted someone to talk to me about my rational and irrational worries and gather actual data from me on if it was important for my daughter to be seen immediately or if we could try some other options first. I signed my kids up for a DPC doctor then and never looked back.
So if you hit the insurance jackpot, good for you! This will help you should you ever have a collision with the healthcare industry that requires some big time care - surgery, hospitalization, fancy drugs. But don't leave DPC, that would silly! We are your gas, your oil changes, and your day to day maintenance.
We are the practice that knows you in the good times and the hard. We can be there by your side through it all. We know you, we listen, we care. There is no insurance, good or bad, that pays for that.
Stay healthy and well!