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FOR PATIENTS

Primary Care

The point of contact for most medical concerns is a family or primary care doctor.  Referrals to specialists and other clinics for more advanced diagnosis and treatment are usually made by the the primary care physician (PCP), making your primary doctor critical to your overall care.  Your PCP can also be extremely useful in helping you find cash-friendly healthcare options.

Most family doctors will allow you to pay cash for your care, though a smaller number will be able to tell you what various services cost, especially before any care has been given.  Some physician practices operate under a model called direct primary care (DPC).  In the past this was categorized together with concierge care, though the two have some important differences.  With DPC, a patient either pays a monthly membership fee which covers most services (so that no additional payment is required), or the patient may pay for services a la carte, as needed.  DPC practices typically publish both membership fees and a la carte prices for all to see – many on their own web sites.

Traditional physicians often accept new patients, because they spend a very small amount of time with each one, and there is little predictability as to when a patient may come in.  DPC practices fill up more quickly.  As of 2016, a majority of traditional physicians nationwide were no longer accepting new Medicare patients, as government reimbursements to doctors continues to decrease, and regulatory requirements increase.  Most DPC practices are new enough that they still accept new patients, but that could quickly change.
Primary Care / Family Doctors
Articles
Most DPC practices are small and independent, and so far there has been little data gathered on their relative effectiveness and quality.  Two of the most mature DPC associations, Access Health Care and Qliance, have seen reduced demand for specialty and emergency services as patients have used comprehensive primary care.