Interest in direct primary care (DPC) was growing even before the pandemic took a chunk out of fee-for-service revenues.1 If you’re among those interested in the model, here are five tips for making the switch.
1. Know your mission: With no health system protocols or insurance regulations to restrict you, your options will be limited only by your imagination and what your patients will support. Before you start, define who you want to serve and what you want to accomplish. That will help you determine where you should locate your practice and how much you will charge for memberships.
2. Make a financial plan: Once you’ve decided where to locate your practice and how much you will be able to charge the population you want to serve, you will be able to create a financial plan for transitioning to DPC. The cost of starting the practice could be as low as $5,000 if you focus on home visits and don’t hire staff. It could be hundreds of thousands of dollars if you want to hire staff and build or rent an office.
3. Pick a practice name: It seems mundane, but it’s actually a critical part of the process. Your practice’s name is key to its marketing, especially in the age of the Internet. You want it to be easy to pronounce, spell, and remember. Including “direct primary care” or “DPC” in the name will make your practice more likely to be found by locals who are using Google to search for a DPC clinic, but the term is not well-known term outside of medicine. Including your own name in the practice name allows you to trade on your local reputation, but may complicate things if you expand and take on partners.
4. Bone up on business: If you’ve never registered a business with local, state and federal legal and taxing authorities, it’s worth taking some time to peruse the Small Business Administration’s webpage on the topic. There are also online resources explaining how to register a domain name and set up a website for your practice.
5. Design your practice: Will you allow unlimited visits for members, or charge a per-visit fee? Will you respond to member calls and emails at all hours or set “office hour” limits? Will you dispense some prescriptions (if your state allows it) as part of the membership? The options are almost unlimited, and there are pros and cons to each of them. Resources like DPC Frontier and the DPC Alliance provide written guidance or can help connect you with other DPC doctors to find out what they do.
1. Martin S. AAFP survey reveals DPC trends. American Academy of Family Physicians. June 19, 2018. Accessed May 1, 2020. https://www.aafp.org/news/blogs/inthetrenches/entry/20180619ITT_DPC.html
Read the full FPM article: “Transitioning to Direct Primary Care.”
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