When we didn't receive Medicare payments for five of seven months between October 2012 and April, it hit my practice hard financially. We were close to a disaster (like closing) until the OSMA (Ohio state Medical Association) helped us get connected with a human who could get our claims paid.
The non-payment was caused by new computer registrations we had to make for the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare, aka, RomneyCare). They made data entry errors in all three of the major changes, not easily detectable by the first four representatives we spoke with as the problem worsened from December through April. After we had assurances in May that it would be fixed, we heard nothing at all for 30 days.
That experience was an eye opener. Our survival as a practice is threatened by the massive system changes.We have no assurances that we'll have any patients after January 1, 2014. We're small and vulnerable. How do we continue?
I love being a Family Physician. There is a sacred aspect to each of us that should be honored in our human endeavors. As a Family Physician, I get to witness and experience that sacredness in my patients and myself. The patient-physician relationship is the sacred core of the practice of medicine that I believe to still be worthy of honoring and protecting. The relationship is a human connection that gives each patient and physician glimpses of the sacred nature of the other. People are amazing and I'm blessed to get to help them with their health, illness and, eventually, their demise. But, OUR demise as a practice is a surprising possibility. How do we stabilize and increase our chance for survival? We need to find an Island of Hope in the Heart of Darkness.
I'm starting to see that Direct Primary Care (DPC) might be that island. It's a business model that gets us away from insurance companies, misaligned quality initiatives, and the quicksand of the Affordable Care Act. (The ACA has some strengths and weaknesses, one of which is that we may disappear or drown in a sea of well-intended initiatives).
My practice has started Direct Family Medicine (DFM), the practice part of the DPC business model. All new patients to the practice can only enter via DPC into our DFM. I've posted about it before. A good introduction to the concept can be found at www.dpcare.org. It's not just about the money. It's also about serving others as a Family Physician as well as I am able.
I'm a member of the planning committee for the Direct Primary Care National Summit in St Louis October 11-12 at the Airport Marriott. It will be an exciting opportunity to explore the "Island of Hope" and get some great information about how to proceed with Direct Primary Care. Physicians and practices from pure DPC, hybrid (traditional/ DPC practices) and transitioning practices will all be represented as well as a few networks of DPC practices. Click on the link below for more information. More conferences of a similar nature will start to pop up as thousands of physicians seek to leave The Heart of Darkness and continue to practice.
Direct Primary Care National Summit