Comparing the Real Cost

A question most people ask is: "Why pay extra for care you might never use? "  This is a good question, and  upfront it seems like this is just one more added cost to an already big medical bill.   But here's another way to look at it:

Hidden Costs of Traditional Care

1.  The cost of your time

How long to you spend in the doctor's office on average?  In my old practice, the average wait time was at least an hour, and often people spent more than an hour simply sitting and waiting (and our office wait time was less than most).

2.  The cost of missed work

If you (or you child) get sick while at work, or if you are an employer with a sick employee or child, how much time is needed off to handle the problem?  If you go to the doctor 4 times in a year and take 1/2 day off for each, that's 16 hours of missed work each year.

3.  The cost of avoiding care

Because it is so difficult to get in to be seen, and the wait-times are so long, people avoid contacting their doctor until the situation is intolerable.  This results in several costly things:

  • Decreased productivity at work/home
  • A minor problem becoming a major one, resulting in more absence from work or decreased productivity
  • A minor problem becomes bad enough to require a visit to the Emergency Room or Hospitalization.

4.  The cost of disjointed care

Your doctor doesn't know what was done at the specialist, your specialist doesn't know what's been done at your primary care doctor's office.  Medications get added by several doctors and nobody is in charge.  If you go to the ER, you have to remember everything and (as is usually the case) the ER will re-do tests even if you 

5.  The cost of rushed care

The "quantity over quality" nature of our system, along with the growing number regulations and non-medical requirements doctors face, has shrunk the amount of face-to-face time they can give to patients.  This means that there is less time to listen, less time to pay attention to details, and more chance of error.  Add to this the frustration most doctors feel with this system, and it is not likely you will get the best from your doctor.  

This reality causes many patients to be confused by their care, and ends up in many unnecessary visits for clarification, follow-up, or to fix what was missed in the first place.  Good medicine takes time, and bad medicine costs a lot to patients.

Savings in My Practice

1.  I respect your time

You don't have to see me to get care; you can contact me via electronic message or phone call, telling me about your symptoms.  My estimate was about 80% of the visits in my old practice didn't actually require the patient to come in.  

I will save you time even if you need to be seen.  If you have a sore throat, for example, I'll talk to you on the phone (or answer your electronic message) and decide if you need to come in (like I would do in person).  If you do need to be seen, the only part of the visit needing to be done is to check your vitals, look at your throat, and perhaps do a strep test.  This should take 5 only minutes.

2.  Less Missed Work

Because you can call or send an electronic message, if you or your child are sick you can tell me what is going on from work.  If you need to be come in, again, it will be only for a brief visit.

3.  Fix Problems Early

I'll not give you the run-around, so you can call the office and get straight answers.  This means that problems don't have to get "big enough" to force you to be seen.

4.  Giving you your medical record saves money (and hassle)

There won't be a question of what medications you are taking.  Paperwork will be easy to fill out because it will come directly from your online record.  Keeping your record up to date will assure that any recent tests done will be available on you portable device or can be printed out from your computer.  This results in less duplicate testing, fewer medical errors, and just better care overall.

6.  No more rushed doctor

This is one of the biggest reasons I am changing.  I don't want to rush so I can get paid enough.  I don't have to follow many of the regulations that ate up my time, and I have no motivation to keep the office full of sick people.  This will let me take my time with each person, even looking after people who don't contact me.  I can realistically set my goal to giving as good of care as I can for every one of my patients.

Additional Savings

There are a few more areas I will be able to save people money (and more will follow)

Discounted Labs - I've contracted with a lab to get tests done very cheaply if paid up-front.  I am offering these to my patients very close to my cost.  Here are some examples:

  • CBC (complete blood count) for $4.50
  • B-12 Level for $12
  • Basic Metabolic Panel for $4.50
  • TSH (thyroid test) for $8
  • Comprehensive Metabolic Panel for $5.00

I am still negotiating prices here, but the savings are huge (80-90% savings).  This will help people who have no insurance, and also those with a high-deductible who would rather not reach the deductible.  I will post the complete fee-schedule of these tests once it is complete, so you will know what you will pay.  Yes, that's called "up-front pricing."

Discounted Radiology Tests - I am presently in negotiations with a local radiology vendor to do the same as I did for the Labs.  Other direct-care physicians have done this with huge savings.

Discounted Drugs - this will not be available at the start, but I plan on having the ability to dispense common generic prescription drugs at manufacturers cost.  There will be no mark-up and the savings I have seen is huge.