Category: Direct Primary Care

High Blood Pressure

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8 October 2019

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care is the only Direct Care clinic serving patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County giving families and employers peace of mind with healthcare costs by providing affordable, accessible, and authentic primary care services.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this blog post, I wanted to talk about hypertension, also known as High Blood Pressure.

You Feel Normal

A person with painful urination is more likely to accept a diagnosis of a urinary tract infection. A child with with wheezing and shortness of breath is more likely to accept a diagnosis of asthma. People diagnosed with high blood pressure are puzzled, saying “How is this something I have” when you don’t feel any different. Symptoms sometimes validate a diagnosis. However, unlike many other illnesses, high blood pressure rarely has identifiable symptoms. As a matter of fact, you may of heard Dr. O’Boyle forbiddingly warn this is the ‘silent killer.

Is High Blood Pressure Dangerous

You may of heard the phrase ‘benign essential hypertension,’ but rest assured, this is an antiquated term. Much like describing a suspicious skin lesion, we use the words ‘benign’ or ‘malignant’ to describe two completely opposite threats. This is not the case when it comes to high blood pressure. 

I mentioned earlier that high blood pressure uses the alias the ‘silent killer’ because if blood pressure is uncontrolled, complications may include heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure.

It is a very real threat.

What is Blood Pressure?

When I take a patient’s blood pressure, always with an inflatable cuff around your arm, I express the measurement back to you as two numbers. The number on top (systolic) and the number on bottom (diastolic), for example 120/80. The top number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against the walls of arteries when the heart beats. The bottom number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart is resting between beats. Both numbers matter. 

The difference between a Normal or High Blood Pressure

I adhere to the clinical practice guidelines set forth from the American Academy of Family Physicians. As you can see from the chart above, a normal blood pressure is less than 120 on the top and less than 80 on the bottom. A definition of high blood pressure starts at a top number of 140 or greater and a bottom number of 90 or greater. 

The Odds

Per the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), 1 in 3 adults in the United States will have high blood pressure. This is why I check your blood pressure, a part of what is called ‘vital signs,’ at every visit. 

How Does This Happen?

Knowing the cause of any disease is helpful. Yet for high blood pressure, I rarely find just one cause. In fact, in medical jargon, ‘essential’ as in ‘essential hypertension’ means ‘of unknown cause.’ There are usually multiple factors at work. Some can not be prevented, such as:

  • Genetics
  • Race
  • Age

Genetic risk is complex and various between individuals as some people have protective genes and others don’t. Some ethnicities have high risks of elevated blood pressure (eg- non Hispanic African American people are more likely to have high blood pressure than other races). There is nothing you can do about it. You also can’t stop aging. 

As we age, that doesn’t mean we can’t do anything to tackle modifiable factors, such as:

  • Being Overweight
  • Smoking
  • Lack of Physical Activity
  • Stress
  • Drinking too much alcohol

Testing: Cheap and Easy

You know I check your blood pressure at every visit. But if people had the ability to check more often, the more effectively we could manage this condition. Blood pressure monitors are available at reasonable prices (typically $25-50), and can be done in the comfort and privacy of your own home. Just like our subjective feelings such as happiness, sadness, stress, and restlessness, our blood pressure varies throughout the day too. This is why I recommend monitoring blood pressure at home for at-risk individuals multiple times a day. 

Treatment

Discussing the scope of treatment for blood pressure is extensive and always carries asterisks for certain populations. Just like the causes, I always say treatment is multi-dimensional and must be individualized, your classic N of 1 trial.  Part of that treatment may include:

  • Medications
  • Exercise
  • Naps
  • Smoking cessation
  • Diet modification
  • Relaxation techniques

Naps are for babies, right? I love a good nap when given an opportunity. Research has shown people who sleep for 30-60 minutes, typically after a midday meal, had a 5% lower average 24 hour ambulatory systolic blood pressure than those who did not sleep, even when adjusted for age, gender, BMI, smoking status, salt intake, alcohol intake, exercise, and coffee consumption. Something to dream about. 

Storytelling in Anxiety and Depression

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12 August 2019

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care serves patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.S

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

Storytelling

We talked about what anxiety is in an earlier post. In this post I am discussing something that is important to me in treating any mental health condition- especially anxiety and depression- and that is storytelling.

Why We Listen

Not only is it a way of relaying information about my patients when discussing care (eg- talking to a therapist to find the best medication), but it is an an essential way I continue to learn at work. It has struck me recently that even more than these obvious examples, storytelling has a direct impact on not only how we understand anxiety and depression (or any disease) but the process of healing itself, from the perception and expectations of the patient to the diagnosis and treatment by the physician. One thing I find myself doing on a daily basis as a physician is listening to patient’s stories. I sit down with them, make myself present, and just listen.

Listen For Understanding

Think about any instruction list TELLING you how to do something: 
Step 1: take an anti depressive medication, followed by 
Step 2: get 8 hours of sleep a night, followed by
Step 3: walk 30 minutes each day, and so on. 

People may complete the task, but long term learning for long term success from this method is limited. When someone is stuck in the dark hole that is anxiety or depression, it’s hard enough just getting OUT of bed in the morning, let alone doing any number of tasks. Treating anxiety or any mental health condition is not comparable to assembling a piece of furniture from Ikea.

Now, compare this to learning something from a story, where someone has pushed their own human experience and emotion into those tasks. Hearing the struggles, failures, and successes through story are more likely to shape your ability to learn and cope. Understand there are some conditions that we treat through empathy and ability to get to know people at people at a deeper level. The conversation can lend the support you need as you navigate the ‘hard’ in your own life.

Our Stories Are Ourselves

Sharing your story will help you feel better. Why are you not sharing your story? Perhaps you feel embarrassment, fear, resignation? If you do not share your story then those thoughts and feelings are just randomly going through your mind, and you may only be inclined to be reactive towards them when they do pass through… that is randomly.

We use stories to describe to others our needs, and mental health is no exception. It doesn’t make much difference what we leave in and what we take out, what is important is that we tell the story. There is magic in that. It’s in the listener and storyteller- us. And for each and every ear, it will be different. And it will affect us in ways that we can never predict. From the mundane to the profound. You may tell or hear a tale that takes up residence in your soul, becomes your blood and your purpose. That story will move you and drive you. And who knows what you might do because of it.

The Challenge

The truth is today we are not treating everyone we need to who suffers from anxiety or depression, and can not do so if we continue to insist on one-on-one therapy with only an ‘expert.’ If listening to and sharing stories helps people, how can we withhold it? It will be there, doing its thing, whether you want it there or not. To ignore it seems to me to be the least ethical thing one could possibly do.

Mainstream medicine has a challenge: continue to ignore your story and lose you to a subjective fantasy built on the mistakes of our brain, or join you in your life story ensuring you are taking responsibility for your wellbeing while making you central to the care and cure.

Medicare for All Act of 2019

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16 July 2019

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care serves patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this blog post, I will not discuss my personal political views nor will I use this as a medium for healthcare horror stories, like this sad story, this sad story, or this frustrating story… because we have heard these before. In this blog I will discuss facts of what I learned from 1) attending the EMU hosted event for ‘Medicare for All,’ and 2) reading through all the pages available online regarding H.R. 1384.

Medicare for All 

I recently attended a town hall hosted at Eastern Michigan University (EMU) on Saturday July 13th where Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (Michigan’s 12th District), Congresswoman Primila Jayapal (State of Washington 7th District), State Senator Jeff Irwin (Michigan’s 18th Senate District), State Representative Yousef Rabhi (Michigan’s 53rd District), State Representative Ronnie Peterson (Michigan’s 54th District), as well as Michigan Nurse Association Vice President Katie Scott were all discussing the ‘Medicare for All Act of 2019.’

They were having a discussion about H.R. 1384, the Medicare for All Act of 2019 which is a bill that would establish a national health insurance program to cover all U.S. residents. Currently (as of 7/15/19) the bill has 117 co-sponsors. 

Speaker Panel Talking Points

To start with the discussion at EMU, I always appreciate an elected officials time (especially on a Saturday night) to discuss what impacts our community. Yes, they did start the panel discussion late, exactly 20 minutes- much like an overfilled physicians waiting room. However, much like those doctors we want to see, we can look past that.

To briefly summarize what they discussed, I felt the panel discussion had an overall vibe of a small group rally for the ‘Medicare for All Act’ with very little substance discussed. To be fair, each speaker only had about 5 minutes. However, 5 minutes should be enough time to pitch something they want to sell. And let’s be honest, our elected officials were trying to sell this bill to the room.

Debbie Dingell

To start with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell’s talk, it was heavy on current healthcare disparity statistics in the US. She did offer some brief talking points such as “We are going to a single billing system that will eliminate a lot of costs.”

The bill claims savings of $500+ billion annually from reductions in costs of billing and administrative costs.

As you can see below of the graph of physicians and administrators from 1970 to 2009, administrative costs are having a major impact on healthcare spending. 

I am curious to see how exactly they will implement this administrative cost savings. Does this mean simply cutting back (i.e.- firing) extra staffing? Those are jobs too. Many physician offices utilize administrative staffing such as front desk receptionists, a dedicated phone staff, nurse triage staff, laboratory staff, billing staff, imaging staff, medical record staff, transcription staff, and office management. 

Primila Jayapal

Congresswoman Primila Jayapal was next. Seattle, you should be proud, you elected a great official. I would be proud to have her represent me if I were there. I was impressed because I felt she actually covered more substance in her discussion than any of the other speakers regarding the ‘Medicare for All Act.’ She states the act will have four components:

  1. Cover Everyone ( Dr. O’Boyle likes this )
  2. No copays or deductibles and be able to go to any doctor or hospital you want to.
  3. Comprehensive coverage including primary care, vision, dental, substance abuse, mental health, maternal care, and more.
  4. Control costs.

Yay! Some material I can work with. Then congresswoman Jayapal says with these ‘controlled costs’ we will pay 14% less then now. WHAT! 14% ?? So that MRI, instead of being $1,400 is now $200 less? That colonoscopy that is billed at $5,000 is now only $4,300. This cost savings is not significant nor will it move the economic needle of medical costs.

Reading through H.R. 1384, I could honestly find only one section (616): Payments for Prescription Drugs and Approved Devices and Equipment that discussed any effort to reduce healthcare expenditure.

Has she heard of Direct Primary Care (DPC)? Does she know I can get a member an MRI for $300, or a colonoscopy for $700? Direct Primary Care is moving the needle on medical cost economics by saving our patients anywhere from 50-90% off of insurance billed costs.

Jeff Irwin

Michigan State Senator Jeff Irwin spoke next. Again, a good speaker. He discussed how doctors are fighting insurance companies over billing and how much a wasteful system this results in. Senator Irwin did say something I believe is important when discussing healthcare: speaking about what people value in their health and healthcare coverage. But, nothing that added any insight on the actual bill. 

Yousef Rabhi

State Representative Yousef Rabhi discussed efforts from a Michigan effort to start universal healthcare plan called ‘MiCare.’ In an acknowledgement of supporting information to Representative Rabhi, he did discuss how he plans to fund MiCare through a vote of the people in Michigan for progressive taxation. Yet, to be fair to the audience, I felt his talk was a bit of a curve ball as all other speakers were focused on the federal bill and not the state bill. 

Ronnie Peterson

State Representative Ronnie Peterson added some personal stories about his history of fighting for racial equality and now fighting for healthcare equality. Again, his talk was touching but added no material onto why or how the ‘Medicare for All Act’ would work.

Katie Scott

The last speaker was Katie Scott, the vice-president of the Michigan Nursing Association. From her talk, I was able to pick out that she was an Intensive Care Unit  (ICU) nurse. Again with the story telling theme of the night, she gave a personal narrative of high prescription drug costs and how that impacted her. 

I absolutely love what nurses do and think their roles are critical towards healthcare. However, ICU nurses and the need they fill are vastly different than what primary care doctors see and what a vast majority of people experience when we think of and utilize healthcare. 

If the elected officials pushing for the ‘Medicare for All Act’ want to be serious, they need to get feedback and collaborate with the primary care providers out there already making changes in their communities. Instead of pushing for town halls on why we need change, Direct Primary Doctors are having town halls in communities on how we are already changing healthcare to improve patient access, improve price transparency, and reduce out of pocket costs on everything from office visits, medications, imaging, speciality care, and laboratory studies.

Keeping Laboratory Costs Low

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10 May 2019

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Cares blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care is a Direct Care clinic serving patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

In this post I am answering a common question that I receive, and that is how does Beyond Primary Care (DPC) keep laboratory costs low for it’s members? Offering low bill rates for labs is a key feature of virtually all Direct Primary Care (DPC) practices, and is something that is done to increase the value of a membership. Just how low? Many DPC practices do in-clinic phlebotomy and can provide numerous laboratory studies to their patients at a tenth of the costs that many hospitals and fee-for-service providers can provide.

How DPC Practices Keep Laboratory Costs Low

To start DPC practices typically do their own phlebotomy (that is the collection of blood from your veins) and rarely bill for these services. This starts the savings before a single drop of blood is collected. DPC practices then contract with laboratory diagnostic companies, many times the same companies that service smaller hospitals or fee-for-service clinics. My clinic, Beyond Primary Care, uses a few laboratory diagnostic companies, Quest Diagnostics, True Health, and Aurora Diagnostics

Prior to drawing any labs for our patients, DPC practices negotiate what we call ‘client bill rates’ with these diagnostic companies. A client bill rates is basically saying, what is the lowest cash price for a particular laboratory study you can offer to my clinic’s patients? Compare this to smaller hospitals or fee-for-service providers. They bill for phlebotomy (U of M states they charge $9 for this service alone) and then these providers bill the labs through your insurance. Often times the laboratory costs often never negotiated down on behalf of the patient because there is no incentive from the practice to do this. 

DPC gets these low laboratory fees for their members in this innovative manner because our primary business is taking care of you and NOT being just a blood-draw center. Your membership for care to a DPC practice allows for this innovation.

Savings from Laboratory Costs

I have a colleague who recently had a pap smear completed, which is a diagnostic test used in females to detect cervical cancer.  She claimed she had ‘Cadillac Health Insurance’ through her employer, meaning basically she thought she had really great insurance that would cover the costs of her healthcare. Look at her bill below and what she was left to pay out of pocket. At my clinic, Beyond Primary Care, the procedure of completing the pap smear if part of the membership. No extra charges. The fee for the pathologist (that I have negotiated) is $44. The difference in costs in this ONE laboratory study alone would pay for months of healthcare at any DPC clinic.

DPC Members can obtain Labs other Doctors Order

DPC providers understand you may need to see another specialist from time to time, and these providers may want their own labs completed. A common question I receive is if the other specialist request labs, can I get them done through your clinic? 

Yes, absolutely this is another great way to minimize your financial impact. No doctor or hospital can force any patient to have routine laboratory studies done only at their location or where they tell a patient to complete them at. That is against the law. They may use convincing language saying ‘the results integrate into our electronic system faster,’ or ‘those other providers may not know exactly what I want.’ Stay firm and request a written and signed order for your labs. Your DPC clinic will complete the exact same labs, bill you at the much lower rates (compared had you used your insurance), and will promptly fax the results over to the requesting specialists that meet their needs. As noted by this Wall Street Journal article analysis of medical services, prices tend to be higher when services are performed in hospital outpatient facilitates instead of at doctors’ offices.

Improve Your Financial Health

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20 April 2019

Dr. Jeff O’Boyle with Beyond Primary Care teams up with Dennis LaVoy CFP® CLU® with Telos Financial to discuss ways individuals, businesses, and families can free up cash flow.

Free Up Cashflow In Your Budget

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4 April 2019

What are some ways to help free up cashflow in your budget? How about healthcare through Direct Primary Care?

Hi, thank you for coming back for the latest edition of Beyond Primary Care’s blog; where I highlight healthy and fun recipes, healthcare news, advice for medical conditions, as well as how membership for care works! Dr. Jeff O’Boyle is the owner of Beyond Primary Care, which is a new approach to family medicine and addiction medicine that creates the time and space your healthcare deserves. Beyond Primary Care serves patients in Ann Arbor and throughout Washtenaw, Livingston, and Wayne County.

The primary purpose of the blog is to introduce healthy lifestyle concepts and answer common questions I receive from patients that I believe are important. I want to start discussions that will help educate, benefit, and improve your well-being. 

Today, I’m glad to welcome guest blogger, my friend Dennis LaVoy. Dennis and I co-authored this piece about freeing up cashflow through Direct Primary Care (DPC).

Who is Dennis LaVoy?

Dennis LaVoy is the owner of Telos Financial, a fee based, holistic financial planning firm located in Plymouth, Michigan specializing in serving young professionals and families. Dennis is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) professional and a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU®) founded Telos to provide financial advice and uses his experience, knowledge, and expertise to help families and individuals in Ann Arbor, Detroit, and across the country achieve their financial objectives.

He went to school at Eastern Michigan University where he graduated Magna Cum Laude while receiving his degree in Finance. He has worked 10+ years as a financial advisor and opened his own firm, Telos Financial in February 2018. 

We’re going to discuss some of the financial incentives for using a DPC model.

What could using a DPC practice mean for my budget? 

Health insurance coverage is a very personal decision each family must make on their own, considering their personal values, tolerances, geographic location, and needs. Direct primary care is a membership model of health care that works well in conjunction with a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP), commonly referred to as ‘catastrophic insurance.’ Combining a DPC membership with a HDHP addresses the main drivers of increasing cost in healthcare, such as the patient being seen in a timely manner, being proactive about your health, and ancillary medical costs (medications, labs, imaging). This allows individuals and families to have extra money on-hand every month, often saving thousands of dollars per year. So, if this type of insurance aligns with your values and tolerances, it can mean big monthly savings for your family versus a higher premium insurance arrangement.

How would it work?

Hospital systems and insurance-based clinics have higher costs for many medical services and their prices do not reflect the true cost of services even after insurance negotiations. When eliminating the costs of using health insurance, many patients can find equally effective and far more affordable options for their healthcare needs.

For example, let’s say your family is pretty healthy overall and have a high premium/low deductible health insurance policy that you pay a lot of money towards every month, where your monthly premium is $1,600, or $19,200 per year.* You believe you are not extracting enough value from your insurance, but still want coverage for those ‘what if’ scenarios. 

Switching to a HDHP insurance plan combined with a DPC membership still means you have that insurance for those ‘what if’ scenarios, but now also you have virtually unlimited access to your doctor where they can focus directly on you and not the middleman (insurance companies). Your new monthly insurance premium is $718*, and by enrolling in a DPC practice for as low as $130** a month you will have $750 in savings every month, or $9,000 per year.

*These figures were obtained by providing realistic information to ehealthinsurance.com to compare health insurance rates for 2 adult non-smokers along with 2 children for comparable health insurance plans that are compliant with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Obamacare. 

**This figure was obtained by combining the rates for adults and children at Beyond Primary Care, Ann Arbors only direct primary care practice.

Financial Savings and Opportunities

Combining a DPC membership with a HDHP can save families and individuals thousands of dollars per year where this arrangement is appropriate. Because Direct Primary Care provides so much in a membership, it is gaining national attention for the associated cost savings. A testimonial to this national attention is Consumer Reports listing Direct Primary Care as a top five smart money move in 2019 saying “joining a DPC medical practice will give you around-the-clock access to your doctor and could save you money on primary care.” 

With a couple hundred saved each month, that is money you can have working for you- not the health insurance companies. An extra $9,000 may allow you to create an ‘emergency fund,’ pay off loans, or even invest for the future. 

A $750 savings per month could build a substantial investment portfolio over time. I always recommend working with a financial planner to decide how best to invest for your family, but depending on your income, goals, and life situation, you could also save to a Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, or to a non retirement investment account. 

The Power of Compound Interest

$750 per month is a lot of money for many families. Over time, it can be hugely impactful for long term financial. Let’s further play out the scenario in this example and you have a family of 4 and that you were able to invest $750 per month at 7% growth. 7% is an assumption based on a balanced portfolio, as a point of reference, the S&P 500 from 1937-2017 (90 years) averaged 10.4%. Further, let’s assume in this example the family of 4 is two adults aged 30 and they’ll save for 12 years (Let’s say until the kids move on). 

In this example, at the end of 12 years or age 42 for the adults, you would have saved a total of $108,000 and the account would be worth over $175,400! If they didn’t save another dime after that, the account would be worth over $1,000,000 around their age 65 and 3 months. If they were able to continue the $750 per month savings, when they reached age 65, the account would be worth $1,532,591 on a total investment of $315,000. The numbers really speak for themselves and really demonstrate the power of compound interest. 

Why wouldn’t I do this?

DPC is not available locally in all communities. If you do not utilize healthcare services on a regular basis or when you do, you are just looking for one-off visits or one-time services, DPC probably is not the right fit. As always, it is something you have to consider personally.

If your employer provides a ‘comprehensive’ high premium/low deductible policy, DPC may not initially be advantageous. Still, consider bringing up DPC to your human resources leaders and incorporating into your benefits package. A partial, or fully self-insured model in conjunction with DPC has been show to result in a 30-60% reduction healthcare expenditures. 

The views expressed are my own opinions and do not apply to every situation. Your situation may vary so make sure to consult a professional for advice prior to making any decisions.

Conclusion

Financial planning should take into consideration all your needs and wants, review costs and tolerances, and educate yourself about the options. To learn more about financial planning, Dennis LaVoy, CFP®, CLU®, or Telos Financial please check out his website at https://telosfp.com/. If you believe Dennis may be a good fit for your family and you live in the southeast Michigan (or really anywhere), call him today at 734-468-3050.

These examples are for illustrative purposes only, not indicative of any specific investment product. Material discussed herewith is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only, please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

Dr. Jeff O’Boyle of Beyond Primary Care is not affiliated with FSC Securities Corporation.

Direct Primary Care keeps Medication Costs Low

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19 March 2019

Hi, thank you for reading! My name is Dr. Jeff O’Boyle. I am a board certified family medicine physician. My clinic, Beyond Primary Care is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In this post I am answering a common question that I receive, and that is how does Direct Primary Care (DPC) keep medications costs low for it’s members? Offering low priced medications is a key feature of virtually all DPC practices, and is something that is done to increase the value of a membership. Just how low? Many DPC practices do in-clinic dispensing and can provide hundreds of medications to their patients at a tenth of the costs that many national retailers can provide.

How DPC Practices Keep Medication Costs Low

DPC practices, like pharmacy retailers have applied for and obtained their medication dispensing license from their respective states. This allows a DPC provider to contract with pharmaceutical wholesalers of medications, the same wholesalers who retail pharmacies such as RiteAid, Walgreens, or CVS may use.  My clinic, Beyond Primary Care, uses two wholesalers of medications, AndaMeds and Bonita Pharmaceuticals. 

These wholesale companies sell the medications, often in large quantities to the DPC practice. However, unlike hospitals and retail pharmacies where selling medications IS their business – resulting in the expected mark-ups (250%!) and high-prices as noted by the American Journal of Pharmacy Benefits– DPC practices turn around and sell the exact same mediations to their patients at those near-wholesale prices. As noted, DPC sell the medications to their members in this innovative manner because our primary business is taking care of you and NOT being just a pharmacy. Your membership for care to a DPC practice allows for this innovation. 

Savings from Medication Costs

You may be or may know some people who take multiple medications. Medications for blood pressure, diabetes, urinary incontinence, anxiety, heart conditions, COPD, or erectile dysfunction may add up to hundreds of dollars a month you are paying out of your pocket. Compare this to the costs I charge my members for the exact same medications. Often times the money saved in medication costs alone pay for a DPC membership! Don’t see your medication on my sample list? Don’t worry, I may still stock it or I can order it too!

* Prices are subject to change without notice, one month supply listed unless noted

Did I Mention In-Clinic Dispensing?

Many DPC practices do in-clinic dispensing of medications. Once the doctor evaluates you and discusses the best course of treatment, that provider can have the necessary medications dispensed to you before you leave the office. In urgent situations, this saves you time, energy, and of course MONEY, something that rarely happens in fee-for-service medical offices. 

Obtaining Specialty or Brand Name Medications

As I mentioned in my earlier post, there are times a member needs or would benefit from a certain medication that is brand name only (very expensive) and would be best obtained through insurance that requires a prior-authorization (what is prior authorization) from the insurance company.

In this scenario, we will work to fill out the necessary paperwork to get your needed medications at reduced costs or even reach out to the pharmaceutical companies seeking a reimbursement or free supplies on your behalf. A great example is we got one of our members Vivitrol, a vital medication for Medication Assisted Therapy in Addiction Medicine. This medication costs over $1,000 on the market, but we worked to get our member the medication FREE of charge with their insurance. Did I mention the office visit and the injection itself were included with the membership? So the patient literally paid $0. Saving money for our patients gets me so excited! 

Direct Primary Care Works With Your Insurance

admin

5 February 2019

Hi, thank you for reading! My name is Dr. Jeff O’Boyle. I am a board certified family medicine physician. My clinic, Beyond Primary Care is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In this post I am answering a common question that I receive, and that is does Direct Primary Care (DPC) work with your insurance? The answer for a vast majority of DPC clinics is yes, DPC works with your insurance, but not for your insurance. This is an important distinction.

DPC does not work FOR your insurance

This is the essence of DPC, that it works directly for you- the patient! We forgo insurance payments in order to save our patients from the arbitrary, intrusive decisions that inevitably follow with third-party payers (health insurance). Furthermore, since DPC practices are independent, we are free from hospital contractual agreements and can offer reduced prices on laboratory tests, imaging, and medications. As noted by this Wall Street Journal article, hospital systems are ignorant of their actual costs. Instead, they often increase prices to meet profit margins.

DPC works WITH your insurance

While DPC’s goal is to cover the vast majority of healthcare needed for all individuals, there are many instances in which a patient may need to utilize their insurance to see providers or utilize services outside the membership.

Specialist Referrals

This would be when a member needs to see a specialist for a condition that requires care past what could be offered in a family medicine clinic. Examples include physician specialist, psychiatrists, counselors, and physical therapists.

Say a member needs a referral to an oncologist- which is a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cancers. No one ever anticipates needing a such a doctor. But when called upon, a DPC doctor will work to find a doctor that accepts your insurance, help coordinate your care, while minimizing your financial impact. How do we minimize your financial impact? If that specialist requires imaging, medications, or blood work, DPC practices will work with you to find the lowest costs– often through our DPC clinics- that meet the needs of the health provider. 

Hospitalization Coordination

From time to time, accidents or serious medical conditions do occur and an elevated level of care is required where a member needs to be monitored 24/7 by a team of doctors and providers.

An example could be a member suffers a broken arm from falling and needs to be hospitalized for a major surgery. DPC will help communicate with your inpatient hospital team of providers making sure they know your current health status and working towards understanding your options for care upon discharge. While we may not be able to care for you in the hospital, we can certainly use virtual medicine (also known as telemedicine) to discuss your needs and questions. We can also give you helpful advice to make sure you won’t receive any unexpected bills from the hospital upon your discharge.

The following picture is a hospital bill from a patient who posted her hospital bill online. The patient was contemplating hurting themselves and walked into an Emergency Room seeking help. The patient states the “physician charges” are NOT shown that bring the grand total to over $18,000!

Here is some FREE Doctor Advice from Beyond Primary Care: In the hospital, ask to know the identity of every unfamiliar person who appears at your bedside. If you’re too ill, ask a companion to serve as gatekeeper. Write it down. What seems like a pleasantry may constitute a $700 consultation

Special Medications

One of the coolest features about DPC is many practices offer in-clinic dispensing of hundreds of generic medications, often at substantial price differences compared to retail pharmacies. Still, there are times a member needs or would benefit from a certain medication that is brand name only (very expensive) and would be best obtained through insurance that requires a prior-authorization from the insurance company.

In this scenario, we will work to fill out the necessary paperwork to get your needed medications at reduced costs or even reach out to the pharmaceutical companies seeking a reimbursement or free supplies on your behalf. A great example is we got one of our members Vivitrol, a vital medication for Medication Assisted Therapy in Addiction Medicine. This medication costs over $1,000 on the market, but we worked to get our member the medication FREE of charge with their insurance. Did I mention the office visit and the injection itself were included with the membership? So the patient literally paid $0. Saving money for our patients gets me so excited!

Virtual Home Medicine in Direct Primary Care

admin

3 January 2019

Hi, thank you for reading! My name is Dr. Jeff O’Boyle. I am a board certified family medicine physician. My clinic, Beyond Primary Care is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In this post I am answering a common question that I receive, and that is how does Direct Primary Care (DPC) take care of it’s members with virtual home medicine? Virtual home medicine, also referred to as telemedicine, is a where you connect with your doctor via phone or computer’s webcam without physically being in the doctor’s office.

The Exception rather than the Rule

Why is it nearly impossible to get a doctor to talk with you over the phone in a timely fashion? Because because certain services like virtual home medicine are typically not be reimbursed by private insurance carriers and government payers. Nearly 40% of what we do in medical offices the patient doesn’t actually have to be there. But why are you there? That is the only way for doctors in a fee-for-service system to get reimbursed for your care, is to actually make the patient physically come in to the brick-and-mortar office to be seen- no matter how routine (eg- common cold, urinary tract infection) or obscure (filling-out paperwork for FMLA or work) the visit seems.  

Standard of Care with DPC

Under the DPC model of care, we naturally provide such care – yet another freedom we enjoy together as a result of our independence from the restrictions of third-party payment. As noted by this Forbes article, telemedicine pairs well with DPC. Since DPC has opted out of insurance contracts altogether, and we contract directly with you, the patient. DPC offers our patients around-the-clock access to primary care medical needs in exchange for an average fee of $50-75 per month. Phone calls, emails, texts, FaceTime- are included in a patient’s membership. Patient are routinely connected with their doctors within minutes to hours when reaching out, versus days to weeks with fee-for-service doctors.

Benefits of Virtual Home Medicine

One of the defining characteristics of DPC is that we keep our practices small so we can spend more time with our patients. Because we have the increased time in our visits to know you well, we can streamline your care when you’re sick away from home or even at home. Many illnesses can be diagnosed and treated with a simple conversation by phone or computer webcam.

Say you are traveling out of state and feel sick. You have access to a conversation with your DPC doctor from your pocket. We will discuss your symptoms, discuss management, then we’ll locate the nearest pharmacy and order the medications most appropriate for your present circumstances.

As a doctor, there have been times where I have seen patients- with just the act of walking from the waiting room to the examination room- get winded or experience excruciating pain. Why would doctor offices allow this? Where is the concept ‘first, do no harm?’ If you are local, often times the DPC doctor may deliver the medications right to your address, saving you the hassle of a trip that may potentially worsen the condition.

Curbside Referral Consult

Adding more value the DPC membership at no additional cost to our patients is many DPC practices participate with electronic consults, or online consultations for speciality care. Primary care can handle nearly 80-90% of all medical conditions, but there are times when a condition may be past our scope of practice. Instead of rushing the patient to the nearest specialist, which will result in a bill likely through the patient’s insurance, many DPC practices seek medical advice on behalf of our patients through an online service call RubiconMD. Through this online service, many DPC practices pay a monthly fee where we can get medical advice on behalf of our patients from more than 100 medical specialities. The company guarantees a response time within twelve hours. The DPC physician fills out the necessary forms, get’s the response through the RubiconMD service, then will pass this medical information onto the patient- at no cost!