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The way back to family medicine

The Way Back to Family Medicine
The Way Back to Family MedicineRolando Herrera

Every year more and more doctors are going to a cash-only business model ("Cash-only" is a loose description. Many do accept payment by debit or credit card too.)

According to CNN money about 4% of respondents to a survey conducted in 2012 by the American Academy of Family Physicians said they took only cash at their practices, up from 3% in 2010. And a physician compensation report by WebMD site Medscape found 6% of doctors had a concierge or cash-only practice in 2013, compared with 4% in 2012.

The reasoning behind this change being the fact that continuous red tape (put up by large insurance companies) means a very large staff is required just to navigate all the paperwork. That results in high overhead, forcing doctors to take on more and more patients to cover costs, thus, decreasing the amount of time they are able to spend with each of them, putting the patient into something resembling a cold assembly line.

This throw back concept allows them, by eliminating the middle man, to offer discounts to financially struggling patients, some can now even go back to making house calls. The direct-pay model may force patients to shoulder more of the upfront cost of their care. But the long-term savings it can generate are substantial.

Some physicians, for example, mention they can trim as much as 30 percent off health costs by combining its services with a high-deductible plan for major medical bills. Most of the doctors that go through this route are offering “direct primary care” or what is commonly known as “concierge” care, whereby they charge a monthly or annual fee for care and include things such as same-day appointments, online prescriptions, simple medical procedures, phone and email access to their doctors.

Another option, is going by a fixed price list which can be as easy and straightforward as a restaurant menu. You are basically looking at a more patient focused approach. This one on one care can mean all the difference in the world to some patients who can now have half an hour with their family doctor that can make them feel at home, as opposed to one hour of waiting time in a front office and 10 minutes with the actual doctor. Individual versus numbers is basically what it comes down to. And the idea that going to the doctor could actually be as simple and straightforward as eating out.