Direct primary care (DPC) provides ready access to your doctor without expensive copays and without you and your doctor experiencing the frustration of navigating the cumbersome mazes of health insurance box-checking regulations.
The DPC approach to medicine was wonderfully illustrated by the 1990s television drama, Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. The show about that Old West physician who traveled from town to town helping people who needed her further motivated Dr. Bridget Gruender to seek out this field as a profession.
“That’s who I wanted to be when I grew up,” Dr. Gruender told COMO Magazine in a 2018 interview. “And that’s the kind of practice I have now.”
Dr. Gruender opened Liberty Family Medicine in July 2016 as the first DPC clinic in Columbia. From the start, Liberty’s affordable monthly membership fee covered the cost of in-clinic care without interference from and the expense of health insurance. Liberty also provides many medications at wholesale cost and lab work at discounted rates, giving patients yet another option for reducing their own healthcare costs.
As of November 2022, Liberty also has a second location in Jefferson City (formerly Titan Health DPC).
Direct primary care membership fees cover all or most primary care services, including the doctor’s visit (as well as text, phone, and email communication, when needed), consulting, and care coordination.
Most of all, though, DPC is based on the premise that a visit to the doctor’s office, as well as follow-up phone calls or texts from the friendly nurses, is about building and nurturing a relationship. It’s about taking care of patients instead of checking off boxes to satisfy an insurance company. Indeed, traditional healthcare tends to be based more on a transaction, but only after waiting on hold, waiting in the lobby, or simply waiting for an appointment slot to open.
That’s not the way it’s supposed to work, though. Unfortunately, having a health insurance card in your pocket doesn’t give you automatic access to health care. What good is it if you can’t get it in to see a doctor?
A typical primary care practice will have a physician load of 2,000 to 3,000 patients per provider. Direct primary care limits that patient load to closer to 800, allowing Liberty Family Medicine doctors to spend an hour with patients on the first visit. Longer appointment times for follow-up visits are also the norm, compared to traditional doctor’s office visits that usually limit the visit to 15 minutes at the most.
Liberty Family Medicine physicians aren’t facing those time restrictions.
“That makes all the difference,” Dr. Gruender said. “This is what patients want. They want a doctor that takes the time and gets to know what’s going on. That’s what I do.”
The built-in quantity – not just quality – of time is also beneficial for preventive care and catching health issues early, or monitoring any ongoing health needs. That practice is not limited to regular clinic hours. Keeping with the approach of offering convenient, flexible, and affordable care, Liberty’s (DPC) physicians are available via phone after hours for urgent needs.
That’s the direct primary care approach: An approach that focuses on the physician-patient relationship — a relationship that puts patients first.