I recently visited my new physician, Dr. Randi Protter, at R-Health, which provides a new model of care — called Direct Primary Care — that could improve patient outcomes while also reducing costs. The state, seeking ways to reduce costs, began this model for people covered by the State Health Benefits Program (state and local government employees, their families and retirees).
My husband has been a state employee for 25 years so our family is eligible. Here’s how it works. R-Health receives a flat payment per month for each member. The doctors have only about half as many patients as the typical primary care physician. Dr. Protter spent nearly an hour with me taking a full medical history, conducting a thorough medical examination, asking lots of questions, discussing wellness, vitamins and vaccinations, and taking notes on a laptop while still making eye contact. I signed up for R-Health’s protected health communication app and put Dr. Protter’s phone number into my favorites list. She insisted that I call or contact her through the app directly anytime I needed anything.
Any time, I asked. Yes, any time, she said.
I went home and had a follow-up question and messaged her through the app. She got right back to me. No answering service or endless holding or transfers. She also told me that I could use the app wherever I am. Let’s say I am on a business trip and have an issue. She will see me over the phone through the app and can write me a prescription to be picked up anywhere in the U.S. or Canada. My sons who are away at college and are also R-Health patients have that same option, which is a relief for a parent.
The model can reduce health costs because physicians who are easily accessible and who know their patients well are less likely to have their patients turn to the emergency room for issues that are not true emergencies. Coordinated care, especially for older patients or those with chronic conditions, can keep people healthy and out of the hospital. And with this model, there’s no incentive for physicians to order unnecessary tests or procedures.
My Direct Primary Care experience, so far, gives me everything I am looking for in a provider — as a health care policy expert and, more important, as a patient. But as I share my story, I feel as if I am letting you all in on a secret. To date, not much has been done to let people covered by the State Health Benefits Program know about Direct Primary Care. And if few people sign up, the new model of care will fail.
The state created this model because they have hopes Direct Primary Care will be popular with patients and contain health care costs. We need to explore new models of care. But we will never know if this model — or any other model — will work if people don’t know about them and sign up. We will never know if the state does not do more to publicize the model.
So tell a friend to tell a friend. Share this blog and the link to learn more about the state’s Direct Primary Care model.