Annual fee will buy you 24/7 access to Ohio state doctors
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Dr. Richard Seidt describes himself as the type of family physician who wants to spend time with his patients. He wants to listen to their questions, answer them thoroughly and focus more on keeping them well.
As part of a traditional practice, the OhioHealth doctor has about 2,500 patients, he said — so many that it keeps him from doing just that.
So he's branching out to start what he calls a "personalized" practice with 400 to 600 patients. His new practice, a partnership with OhioHealth and the MDVIP program, will open on March 31 in Upper Arlington.
The MDVIP model charges an annual fee — in Seidt's case, $1,800 — and enrolls patients in a wellness program that includes an expansive physical with some items not typically covered by insurance. Patients also can get same-day or next-day appointments and can call or text Seidt 24/7.
"I'm excited," he said. "This is an opportunity to get back to why I went to medical school, to get to really focus on preventive health care and the future of health care."
The model is just one being seen in central Ohio by doctors who say they are frustrated with traditional practices that place too high a value on increasing patient volume to the detriment of quality care.
In January, Dr. Carolyn Guarino-Vogler left a practice in Beechwold to start Prometheus Primary Care, which operates under a "direct primary care" model. That means Guarino-Vogler does not accept insurance. Instead, patients are charged a monthly fee of $75 and are granted 24/7 access.
She is not yet accepting new patients, sticking so far with those from her previous practice. Her goal is to have as many as 500 patients.
"I am more like the old country doctor; I take time with my patients," she said. "And I've been told that's a fault.
"I wasn't able to spend the time I wanted to with them because I had to cram patients into my day."
Dr. John Bender, a board member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said direct primary care services are growing exponentially nationwide, with a high concentration of them in Colorado and Washington.
His Fort Collins, Colorado, practice is a hybrid, with about 20,000 patients opting for traditional care and 600 paying a fee for direct primary care.
Data from the academy's 2015 Practice Profile Survey show that about 3 percent of physicians work in a direct primary care setting. About 1 percent are in practices that are currently transforming to the model.
Bender said direct primary care practices were spawned, in part, from the rise in high-deductible insurance plans. Someone with a $6,000 deductible, for example, could benefit from paying the fee for primary care services instead of using their insurance plan.
Doing away with the insurance paperwork not only helps doctors financially, but it gives them more time to spend with patients, he said. And people who pay a monthly fee are less likely to go to clinics, urgent care or emergency departments, which can cost a lot, Bender said.
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