The Direct Primary Care (DPC) model is a practice and payment model where patients/consumers pay their physician or practice directly in the form of periodic payments for a defined set of primary care services. DPC practices typically charge patients a flat monthly or annual fee, under terms of a contract, in exchange for access to a broad range of primary care and medical administrative services. The DPC practice framework includes any practice model structured around direct contracting with patients/consumers for monthly or annual fees which serve to replace the traditional system of third party insurance coverage for primary care services. Typically, these periodic payments provide patients enhanced services over traditional fee-for-service medicine. Such services may include real time access via advanced communication technology to their personal physician, extended visits, in some cases home-based medical visits, and highly personalized, coordinated, and comprehensive care administration. The AAFP supports the physician and patient choice to, respectively, provide and receive healthcare in any ethical healthcare delivery system model, including the DPC practice-setting.
The DPC contract between a patient and his/her physician provides for regular, recurring monthly revenue to practices which typically replaces traditional fee-for-service billing to third party insurance plan providers. For family physicians, this revenue model can stabilize practice finances, allowing the physician and office staff to focus on the needs of the patient and improving their health outcomes rather than coding and billing. Patients, in turn, benefit from having a DPC practice because the contract fee covers the cost of many primary care services furnished in the DPC practice. This effectively removes any additional financial barriers the patient may encounter in accessing routine care primary care, including preventative, wellness, and chronic care services. Most patients, depending on affordability, still carry insurance for coverage of healthcare services that cannot be provided in the primary care practice setting, such as specialty care and hospitalizations. The model is especially well suited for those patients with high deductible plans where they might normally be paying out of pocket for any primary care services that are not considered preventive.
Ideally, the DPC model is structured to emphasize and prioritize the intrinsic power of the relationship between a patient and his/her family physician to improve health outcomes and lower overall health care costs. The DPC contract fee structure can enable physicians to spend more time with their patients, both in face-to-face visits, and through telephonic or electronic communications mediums should they choose, since they are not bound by insurance reimbursement restrictions. For these reasons, the DPC model is consistent with the American Academy of Family Physicians' (AAFP) advocacy of the advanced primary care functions and a blended payment method of paying family medicine practices. The AAFP provides resources for members tranforming to this model, including CME credit, and will continue to promote and support Direct Primary Care as an innovative advanced practice model. (2013 COD) (May 2023 BOD)