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Doctors Have a Big Problem. Direct Primary Care Can Help.

It is a staggering problem with potentially fatal results. Fortune reports on the need to address physician burnout.

About 1 in 10 doctors reported that they had made a major medical error in the prior three months in a national survey of over 6,000 American doctors just published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. Just over half of the doctors surveyed reported being burned-out, and the study authors found that those doctors were twice as likely to report errors.

We tend to ascribe super-human qualities to doctors. Fact is, they’re flawed human beings who face — and fall victim to — the same stress each of us faces. So what do we do? Let’s begin with talking more about the health care delivery model known as Direct Primary Care.

DPC addresses physician burnout in many ways. Because DPC doctors are no longer subject to insurance companies’ complex billing codes and prior authorizations, they can be creative in how they care for their patients. They also don’t have to spend 40 percent of practice revenue on personnel who are responsible for filing insurance claims. Removing insurance costs and keeping a low overhead helps DPC practices break even on as little as four patient visits per day. In traditional practice settings, primary care physicians see as many as 32 patients per day to stay afloat financially.

So let’s step back. How exactly does Direct Primary Care work?

In exchange for a monthly fee, patients can see their DPC doctor for all of their primary care needs. DPC is similar to concierge medicine, but the key difference is that these practices deliver basic health care at an affordable price with no insurance billing whatsoever.

While DPC is a niche market, it’s experiencing considerable growth. As of 2014, over 4,400 doctors in the U.S. had transitioned to direct health care, a significant increase from just 146 in 2005. More than 30 doctors in North Carolina practice DPC.

Physician burnout isn’t an isolated problem. Burnout leads to medical errors. Do you want to be the patient who suffers the consequences?


Donna Martinez / VP of Marketing and Communications

Donna came to the John Locke Foundation in January 2003 after freelance writing for Carolina Journal and contributing to projects for the North Carolina Education Alliance. He...

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