Doh! The Value of My Practice I Completely Missed

In 2015, I walked away from insurance-driven health care to open Unorthodoc, a primary care practice based on individual and family memberships. I was pretty sure that I knew why my current and potential patients would join me. After all, weren’t they as tired of the inconvenience and cost of insurance-controlled medicine as I was? They wanted my unhurried time, believing that a doctor who heard their entire story would order fewer prescriptions, tests, and referrals…right? Surely they would flock to pricing that was extremely transparent while also being less expensive than their cell phone. And they’d love using available technology to have a “doctor visit” without always having to actually appear in my office. I just knew it.

The model struck a chord with enough people to get us off the ground. But when the early adopters told others about Unorthodoc, new patients started showing up on the strength of a single concept that had escaped me. While I was introducing the practice using words like “sensible,” “flexible,” and “affordable,” our patients were broadcasting something they valued even more – their new doctor was “accessible!”

Two new patients signed up because they were present with an established member on a holiday weekend and witnessed us troubleshooting a child’s sudden asthma flare by phone instead of going to an urgent care. On a recent coffee date with friends, a member securely texted a question to us and got his answer before their cups were empty. His friends signed up the following week. Someone walked in to join Unorthodoc one afternoon after calling the office the same morning. I answered the phone because the patient care coordinator was busy drawing blood. “Sensible,” was my thought; “Accessible!” was hers.

It seems people desperately want to talk to their doctors yet get the opportunity too rarely. If typical doctors made themselves as available as I am to a 2500+ patient panel, it would simply shred them. First, they would go broke and then they would go crazy. The insurance industry rarely pays for contact outside of face-to-face office visits. Therefore, doctors need layers of people to protect them from “unpaid” contact, keep their schedules full, and bill the “payers”. They have neither the time nor the economic incentive for simple communication.

However, I chose the direct primary care model because it keeps patient rosters between 600 and 800. It bakes in the time needed to form relationships and has already been proven to yield tangible savings in time, money, and health. But its unsung benefit is why I don’t fear being abused by people who are essentially paying Unorthodoc for near 24/7 access. When people trust that I’m there when they need me, they carefully consider how and when to “bother” me. Not only are patients drawn to “accessible” — their trust is why it’s even possible. Consider me schooled!

Comments

  1. Becky Myers says:

    I trust a medical professional for the first time in 7 years when I met Dr. Annis and Jodi in 2015. I had waited to become her patient for a very long time, as PCPs and specialists had lost my confidence and belief that they saw and heard what, no, who, was in front of them. Honesty, integrity, intelligence, compassion, and boldness personify the practice of medicine when in the very capable hands of Dr. Annis and her “jenny of many trades” professional sidekick, Jodi. When I call or email or “twistle” I know Jodi is aware of my history, is not patronizing or rushed, and whatever she does not immediately know, that woman will find out, like nobody’s business.

    I’ve had specialists’ staff and nurses that swore they had the records I or my doctor sent, repeatedly said they would ask or inform the doctor, or confirm an appointment, only to not be prepared for my appointment, have no labs, rads, or diagnostics carefully sent to them, have me wait 1.5 to 2 hours after arriving 10 minutes early for my appointment, or the doctor never got my message or never responded about my concerns regarding elevated labwork, difficulty breathing, severe nausea, or other symptoms of my chronic diseases. Family was mistreated as their symptomology or histories were mixed up or only partially considered and reviewed prior to treatment being selected. My resources were wasted on ineffective treatments or obscure diagnostics, so I couldn’t seek effective treatment or doctors after failed efforts.

    Unorthodoc has changed the dark, bleak view I had of medicine and medical professionals. My pain or decreased quality of life is not ignored. My concerns are met.
    Now, I believe my doctor or her nurse when I am told something. I feel better after every visit, talk, message, or twistle. I am heard. I am treated. I am unorthodocked.

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