This blog post is based on an interview with Jennifer Steves, RN, Co-Founder and COO of The Town Doctor. It has been posted with her approval and permission.
Note: AB denotes AgencyBloc and JS denotes Jennifer Steves
Continuing with our Expert Series blogs, I had the opportunity to ask Jennifer Steves, RN, Co-Founder and COO of The Town Doctor, about Direct Primary Care (DPC), her mission of putting humanity back into healthcare, and how agents can partner with their local DPC providers. Thank you, Jennifer, for your time and contribution!
AgencyBloc: What is the history of DPC and how and why has it changed?
Jennifer Steves, RN: Sometimes we need to go back in order to move forward. Many years ago, before employer based insurance, people paid directly in cash for their healthcare. We can historically look and even find when Mark Twain’s family paid their doctor $25 to take care of the family. Yes...that long ago!
In the mid 1900’s, with the rise in employer based health insurance, a shift was made that included a smoke screen & inefficiencies that allowed the growing ability to hide true or real costs within this third party system—which then left physicians seeking reimbursement from insurance companies for the services provided.
Paying directly for primary care isn’t something new, but DPC is bringing a breath of fresh air, reviving & revitalizing the ability for physicians who have grown frustrated, to provide greater access, and more personalized service along with transparent costs, all while allowing them to enjoy their profession once again. This approach is allowing the physician or clinician to now avoid the ‘red tape’, bureaucracy, and wasteful claims and trade it for care that is cultivated in an environment that is both healthier for patients and those that care for them.
Direct Primary Care is not only bending - it’s breaking the cost curve for individuals, families & businesses, allowing physicians and their staff the ability to work at the ‘top of their license’, reducing unnecessary referrals to expensive specialties, facilitating care more appropriately to high-quality centers when needed, and decreasing over utilization of urgent cares and ER’s by simply providing high-quality relationship-based care in this model.
It’s really that simple.
AB: You share some of your journey as a family into DPC on your website www.TownDoctor.com, what would you say has been the most impactful moment on that journey to this point?
JS: Wow. So many pivotal moments in our life and career that have brought us to this spot. Collectively it is the many small great moments, mistakes and learning along the way that have come together, allowing us the opportunity to serve our community in a more positive way.
One of the biggest growth points, and I hope that would be an encouragement, is when we made that final decision to step away and do something so totally awesome and different, knowing it’s fully possible to provide really great care, and have a really great family life as well. We knew we wanted to provide care to our patients in the same way we offer it to our own family, and to be able to do it well in a way that allows us the freedom to be just as available to each other and our own children as they grow.
Having the time and availability to listen, hold a patient's hand, visit them in their home, encourage them in improving their lifestyle and educate them as we begin to understand where they are in life has given us the availability to meet them where they’re at. It has opened up doors to help walk alongside them, build trust, and pour into their lives and families where we have been able to find the humanity in healthcare, restoring hope and seeing both physical and financial healing take place. Both personally, and professionally, its very gratifying.
AB: Several states are “deserts” when it comes to available DPC options. Why is that? And what advice do you have to both practitioners and patients in these areas who are interested in this approach to health services?
JS: Policymakers need to continually look at the laws that stand in the way of physicians being allowed to practice in this fashion—both at the state and federal levels. As we continue to see more states bringing clarity to laws where Direct Primary Care (DPC) is defined appropriately, along with all those that are working to create greater access through the federal tax code we will find these areas begin to see more physicians & clinicians choose it as a viable & sustainable option to practice.
In conjunction with clarity of the law, as employers and individuals are educated on the health benefits & real financial value that comes from working directly with the correct DPC care community, I trust we will see partnerships and relationships form in these dry areas supported with foundations of accountability allowing world-class care to be provided, building trust and compliance that’s ultimately reflected in healthier families & workforces reducing the overall spend. Many physicians are just learning it’s fully possible to have a career that is professionally satisfying and a new found freedom to provide a high level of attentive care.
- For prospective patients, support your policymakers who want to see positive healthcare change in your areas and check out the DPC mapper for a practice local to your area https://www.dpcfrontier.com/mapper/—there are new DPC practices going up all the time!
- For physicians considering DPC as an option or wondering ‘How do I get started?’, there is a community and wealth of resources & support available. You don’t have to do it alone! Check out www.dpcalliance.org.
AB: What are the greatest obstacles to your DPC practice and how do you foresee conquering those challenges?
JS: Getting started in Direct Primary Care isn’t the easy way…but for us was the right way, and any mountain worth climbing has challenges. Forging a new way so different from a Goliath of a system and starting with one small sling & stone requires commitment, tenacity and putting one foot in front of the other. We do that when we make an intentional choice each day to advocate in all the best ways we know how for our patients.
As entrepreneurs part of a grassroots movement, one of greatest barriers to growing a DPC practice is overcoming the status quo. Education is a powerful driving force behind DPC. Teaching people the critical importance of being informed healthcare consumers, encouraging support of health policy reform & legislation in support of DPC where able, and knowing the questions they need to be asking so they can receive the exceptional value that quality primary care can bring to them when they choose the correct care community.
Knowledge is power, and we take the time to spend with people in a number of different ways—from text, to email, phone or coming in to the clinic to meet the physician or clinician to answer questions and sharing the opportunities they have available to them when they opt to choose high-quality direct primary care. It takes time, but we are seeing the fruit of many who labor, as people shift in their understanding from the current expensive reactive status quo model to an option that breaks the mold allowing more time, high value and a focus on prevention
AB: What advice do you have for insurance agencies that are looking to partner with and promote the DPC model with their clients?
JS: Keep it simple, and eliminate the ‘noise’. People are tired of being fleeced with expensive, confusing, low-value care, and Direct Primary Care brings something different to the table when people choose it as the foundation of their healthcare plan. With a trend towards higher deductibles, there is a greater demand for transparency in the cost & quality of an individual's healthcare. DPC can manage 80%-90% of a person’s care, so it makes it possible for patients or employers to have these higher deductibles and receive excellent, cost-contained primary care.
Whether it’s a high deductible, cost-sharing program or implementing a stop loss program, it remains important to have coverage for the expensive, unexpected event such as major surgery or hospital stay. By separating primary care from coverage, care is found to be more accessible & attentive, claims histories & premiums go down and out-of-pocket costs are significantly decreased or eliminated.
Agents can call or meet with their local DPC physicians or clinicians to learn what they can offer, or connect with forward thinking organizations like Health Rosetta to establish credibility when offering high-performing plans that include Direct Primary Care. Share the opportunity for care with clients that invites them to connect with a clinician that KNOWS them well, allowing for meaningful interactions & stewardship of their financial resources.
Why? Because everyone deserves nourishing care without the rush. And it doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
AB: What is your favorite part of being a DPC provider?
JS: Hope. Bringing hope and healing to physicians & families that have been hurt by a broken system. How wonderful it is to have the ability to do what we can in all the best ways we know how for the patient.
The relationships we are able to build within the direct primary care model allow us not only to make a difference in the health or financial future of a patient, but one that brings joy and freedom to our family as well. We have been so fortunate to see the transformative changes in people that reach far beyond the exam extending into their homes, families and workplaces.
The ability to be part of something that creates change in the foundation of family resulting in better health, more knowledgeable consumers of care & ultimately stronger families or business’ is rewarding—and worth all the hard work to get to this point. Some of the most impressive moments are not big or flashy ones, but a compilation of individual interactions when brought together create a unique and beautiful masterpiece where we can sit back, take it in and just be grateful.
What is AgencyBloc?
AgencyBloc is an agency management system that helps life and health insurance agencies grow their business with an industry-specific CRM, commissions processing, and integrated business and marketing automation.
Watch the Overview Video
Image Source: Jennifer Steves, The Town Doctor