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What is Direct Primary Care? Learn Exactly How It Works

woman in a red dress getting checked out by a doctor

If you’ve grown frustrated with the short appointments, high cost, and impersonal, Band-aid approach of traditional medical care, Direct Primary Care may be the answer! Learn more about this modern, affordable alternative to institutional Primary Care.

What is Direct Primary Care?

Direct Primary Care (DPC) is a healthcare delivery model that allows Primary Care Providers to offer medical services to an individual or a family for a flat monthly fee. Rather than charge patients per visit or per service, DPC relies on a membership plan and direct patient contracts to offer members unlimited access to routine medical services and care.

As a result, Primary Care Providers (PCPs) can devote unlimited time to each DPC patient’s needs, and patients can expect more personalized, attentive treatment. For instance, The Center for Fully Functional Health’s DPC program includes unlimited clinician appointments, plus a suite of testing and preventative care services.

Because DPC programs are owned and staffed by licensed medical professionals, DPC providers can work with the same hospitals, laboratories, outpatient surgery centers, and other medical service providers as a standard Primary Care doctor. That means we can perform labs, order x-rays or other testing from outside facilities, or refer you to specialists as needed.

However, DPC medical practices are entirely separate from the traditional healthcare network that includes health insurance companies, hospitals, third-party billing contractors, and more. We have the freedom to treat you exactly as needed, without prior approvals or the bureaucracy of pharmaceutical and insurance companies.

What Makes DPC Different from Institutional Medical Care?

Millions of people in the U.S. have a PCP that works within a hospital system. Most Primary Care doctors are in-network with their patient’s health insurance provider. In fact, in-network availability is a prevailing reason why patients choose any specific provider at all.

Instead of choosing a doctor that aligns with their values, needs, or location, patients are forced to choose from a list of providers picked by their insurance company. This system is built on pre-negotiated contracts with large hospital systems, and it has almost nothing to do with the needs of an individual patient.

In contrast, most DPC practices are independently owned and operated. This ownership model gives independent doctors the ability to prioritize their patients’ actual needs, not just maximize the billable services provided.

Our own DPC uses a Functional & Integrative Medicine treatment model that rejects the institutional cycle of speedy appointments, invasive testing, and long-term prescription use. Instead, our DPC providers focus on proactive, compassionate care that prevents future illness and addresses the root cause of any existing health issues.

How Does Direct Primary Care Work?

Becoming a DPC member is much easier than navigating the traditional healthcare system! Rather than long hold times for the billing department and uncomfortable waiting room visits, DPC providers aim to create a more personal, frictionless process of receiving and paying for services.

Here’s what to expect if you’re considering a DPC membership:

  • The DPC practice you’re considering membership with can provide a list of their care plans, services, additional benefits, and costs.
  • Most DPC providers offer a simple billing structure and month-to-month payment options that can be added, expanded, or removed as needed.
  • Some DPC practices operate from a central office location, but others can offer in-home care or telemedicine.
  • Your DPC provider will be able to help with examinations and prescriptions for an illness, routine physicals, baseline labs, virus testing, general wellness, mental health caregiving, and much more.

Most members call their DPC provider first when they have a question or urgent need, or if they require a referral to a specialist. Instead of incurring an expensive co-pay bill or ER visit, members can speak to a clinician who knows them personally and can help navigate the best course of action.

doctor holding a cut out paper heart

What Are the Benefits of Direct Primary Care?

We’ve already covered how DPC is different from traditional Primary Care doctors. But it’s important to understand how these differences produce critical benefits for both the doctors offering DPC and the patients they serve. From lower costs to better standards of care, DPC members stand to gain a lot from this innovative service model.

1) Lower Healthcare Costs

DPC providers aren’t burdened with the same massive overhead and liability costs as hospitals, so DPC services are more affordable and predictable. Instead of paying for a system that’s bloated with administrators, billing specialists, consultants, and big buildings, DPC members know that each payment goes directly to the services they need each month.

Because their DPC clinician can provide most of their routine medical care (or help them source medical services at a discounted rate), many DPC members end up spending less on overall healthcare costs each year.

In general, DPC members save money in any of the following ways:

  • No out-of-pocket costs for unplanned PCP visits
  • Receiving medical services at discounted rates
  • Avoiding unnecessary treatments

This direct-pay model is already used in Functional & Integrative Medicine practices across the nation with great success.

2) Regular, Predictable Access to Care

In the traditional healthcare system, patients are trained to hold off for as long as possible before visiting the doctor.

Instead of waiting for something to go wrong or for a medical issue to become persistent or debilitating, patients can easily seek input from their DPC provider at any time, with no added cost. The ability to truly practice preventative care allows DPC clinicians to produce some incredible impacts, including:

  • Improving overall well-being and quality of life for their patients
  • Reducing their own burden of care due to the effectiveness of preventative practices
  • Decreasing systemic strain on the medical system by helping patients before they require more significant interventions

3) A Relationship with Your Care Provider

The average patient might see their doctor once or twice a year. But DPC members have access to their provider as often as needed, and for any reason.

This access allows you to build a trusting relationship with your DPC clinician. As many DPC patients know, the provider relationship becomes increasingly valuable over time. This is especially true if you have chronic health issues that require detailed knowledge of your personal medical history and prior treatment.

With the right knowledge at hand, your DPC doctor can truly advocate for the best result and treatment process. The DPC model also creates a better in-office or in-home visit. Here are a few stats (1) that might surprise you:

  • Research shows that DPC members see their doctors 2 to 4 times more often than the average patient.
  • DPC patient visits last 2 times longer than PCP visits at a hospital, with an average DPC appointment time of 35 minutes.

In addition to providing your medical services, your DPC provider can also help you understand the healthcare system and make an educated choice if more specialized treatments are required. This is a huge benefit for patients that would otherwise be left alone to determine the best approach for their healthcare.

Lastly, many DPC clinicians have much more open lines of communication with their patients, including personal texts, emails, etc. Ungated access to their provider means that patients can easily and directly communicate on their own terms.

How Much Does a Direct Primary Care Membership Cost?

The cost of a Direct Primary Care membership will vary by geography, specialty, and the number of members on your plan. You can expect to invest approximately $115-$150 monthly, plus a one-time enrollment fee that covers initial comprehensive onboarding and testing.

The main factors affecting DPC membership cost are:

  • Age
  • Number of members on the plan

Patients with a qualified high-deductible health plan have the added advantage of using their HSA to pay for DPC memberships. (2) This approach helps patients receive the pre-tax benefits of an HSA and alleviate the membership costs for a DPC provider.

DPC also works well for members that fall outside of the institutional health insurance system, including people that use a religious or non-religious medical cost-sharing program.

Start Your DPC Membership with The Center For Fully Functional Health in Carmel, Indiana

Direct Primary Care is a great option for individuals, couples, and families. At CFFH, our Free Climb Direct Primary Care membership is designed specifically for members who want unlimited care and a proactive, personalized approach to their medical needs and wellness goals.

In addition to regular DPC services, our members receive substantial perks for other holistic wellness services, from nutrition consultations and supplements to discounted aesthetic treatments and MedSpa therapies.

Your Free Climb Annual Membership includes:

  • Unlimited appointments with your Fully Functional PCP
  • Annual comprehensive physical exam
  • Baseline labs (CBC, CMP, HgA1C, Lipid Panel, Thyroid, Vitamin D)
  • Flu, strep, mono & urine testing (up to 3 times annually)
  • In-office EKG
  • Quarterly body composition analysis
  • Annual skin cancer screening
  • Discounted rates on additional labs or procedures

As a Free Climber, you’ll also enjoy these Fully Functional MedSpa benefits:

  • Free annual aesthetic skin assessment
  • 15% off all MedSpa Wellness & Aesthetic Services
  • 10% off all Skincare & Fully Functional Supplements
  • 10% off all Fillers
  • Neuromodulators at $10/unit
  • VIP access to Fully Functional MedSpa events

Free Climb memberships range from $115-$135/monthly, plus a one-time enrollment fee of $250. (The savings begin immediately, since your onboarding package includes a Comprehensive Initial Consult with EKG, Fully Functional Foundational Supplement Bundle, and Free Climb Welcome Kit valued at $871.)

Getting started is easy! You’ll have a month-to-month contract option that offers flexibility and affordable, world-class care.

Our staff is available to answer questions, walk through the available services, and discuss your options for joining the fast-growing DPC membership movement. Please call us at (317) 989-8463, Monday – Thursday 8AM to 5PM Eastern, or fill out the contact form below.

Schedule an Appointment Today.

The Center for Fully Functional Health® is led by a team of award-winning, internationally recognized physicians, committed to providing personalized, life-changing care.

40 North Rangeline Rd. Carmel, IN 46032

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