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"I haven't had a downside to it," Direct Primary Care model helps avoid wait times

"I haven't had a downside to it." Direct Primary Care model helps avoid wait times (WKEF/WRGT)

BELLEFONTAINE, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT)- Typically, when you walk into a doctor's office you must sign in, fill out insurance paperwork and then sit and wait all to see a physician for less than 10 minutes, but a new model of care is changing that.

Instead, you would only have to wait a minute or so to see your physician. That's how long Ryan Kauffman, M.D., said his average wait time is.

Hickory Medical Direct Primary Care is a membership-based family care practice in Bellefontaine.

"Most people in primary care today are burning out but it's only when they reach that point of desperation that they're willing to basically turn everything on its head and try to find an entirely new way of doing things," Kauffman said.

Kauffman has been practicing medicine for 11 years, 9 of them were in a traditional model. He said his youngest patient is just a few months old and his oldest is more than 90 years old.

"I found that so much of our focus in a traditional practice was based on what we could get insurance to cover and all the paperwork and boxes we had to check," Kauffman said.

Kauffman said it was hurting his patients.

"What it led to was shorter appointment times and, unfortunately, the focus really became more on making sure we jumped through those hoops than it was really taking care of the patients," Kauffman said. "So many times, instead of being able to do what we wanted to for our patients, we had to do what we had to for the insurance. So, that was kind of what led me towards doing things a different way.”

So, Kauffman switched to the direct care model about two years ago. Each adult pays $39 a month for a membership, or $20 for a child. Then, when you show up for your appointment, you pay $20. As long as the doctor can provide whatever service you need in the office, that's all you have to pay.

FOX 45’s Christian Hauser talked with several patients, one of which was Hilery Fout. She has been a patient of Dr. Kauffman for 3 1/2 years.

"If I was sick, I didn't want to wait 2 to 3 weeks to be seen, because a lot of times that's how it was because when I got sick everyone else got sick, flu season, that kind of thing," Fout said.

Fout said she never has to sit and wait for an appointment. She said she checks in and is almost immediately taken back to an exam room.

"I go in the room and I wait. I've only had to wait a minute, maybe two for [the doctor] to come in, which is very unusual. Most doctors you're waiting, I can remember spending 2 to 3 hours in a doctor's office waiting," Fout said.

Fout isn't the only one praising the model. Kauffman said the city of Bellefontaine started offering the direct primary care model to its employees.

Officer Greg Van Buskirk has been with Bellefontaine Police Department for 20 years.

"When you're sick, you're sick now. You don't want to wait 3 to 4 days to get into the doctor and this was an option for me to get in right away," Van Buskirk said.

Van Buskirk has been with Hickory Medical for about a year

"I haven't found a catch. I haven't had a downside to it. Like I said, when I call, I've been able to get right in," Van Buskirk said.

So, what's included in the membership? Everything in the office visit, including any tests like bloodwork that needs to be done. Kauffman said in traditional practices insurance or Medicare or Medicaid calls the shots, that's not the case in direct primary care.

"Because the insurance company doesn't tell us what to do, we're able to do things that make sense. So, part of my frustration in my old practice was patients weren't able to afford getting their labs done, so that's why we decided to include those," Kauffman said.

Kauffman said they can do a lot of tests and procedures in the office, but there are some things he just can't perform.

"For things like surgeries, we can't do surgeries. We can't do big hospitalizations," Kauffman said.

But what about when the office is closed?

"At night my personal cell phone number is on there so, if they have an urgent issue they can call me, I'll answer it," Kauffman said.

Keep in mind the membership is not insurance. Kauffman said people still need to have a policy in case of a major medical emergency.

Fout and her family have insurance through her husband's work. They have a $6,000 deductable

"I don't spend near that much in a year, you know, for [the insurance company] to kick over and start covering things for me. So, you know, the $59 a month is a huge savings for us," Fout said.

Kauffman said only about 5 percent of people with a $5,000 deductible will meet that in a year.

Why aren't more practices switching to the direct care model?

"Basically in order to do this, I signed out of Medicare, meaning I can't accept Medicare for a couple of years. I had to terminate all my insurance contracts. If you don't have patients who are willing to follow you, you don't have an income," Kauffman said.

For more information about the practice, check out this website.

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