Humanity Through Technology: New Models of Primary Care | Part 2

In Part 1, “Technology Driving New Models for Concierge Medicine and Direct Primary Care“, we looked at the growing movement in primary care to new retainer-based practice models. Concierge medicine and Direct Primary Care (DPC) practices are attracting doctors, patients, investors, and developers as they eliminate or minimize the role of insurance.

In Part 2, we examine how these new models of primary care, without the “middleman,” are fundamentally changing the doctor-patient relationship.

Creating Meaningful Relationships with Technology

What does it mean to be human in today’s wired world? What is the evolving relationship between humanity and technology?

Primary care physicians in concierge medicine and Direct Primary Care are redefining the doctor-patient relationship. They are using technology and social media as “tools” to forge more human, more connected relationships with patients.

We are the species that creates tools, and the tools expand our reach. – Ray Kurzweil

While The American College of Physicians is cautioning doctors about social media and setting guidelines for physicians in a digital environment, concierge medicine and direct primary care doctors see social media as just another way to be available to their patients.

Doctor-Patient RelationshipThe Oldest ‘New’ Form of Medicine

“Social media is great, “ says Dr. Josh Umbehr of Atlas MD in Wichita, Kan., “People want to see a doctor with a personality.” He describes his affordable concierge medicine practice as a return to a Marcus Welby, MD, style of practicing medicine.

Dr. Umbehr provides unlimited primary care and in-home visits for a monthly fee based on a person’s age – ranging from $10 a month for children up to $100 per month.

Instead of rushed 8-minute visits, concierge physicians average 30 to 45 minutes with patients. Patients also have 24/7 access to their physician, and they say patients rarely abuse this access.

“We have time in our practice to ask more questions and listen to a complete answer,” explains Dr. Tiffany Sizemore-Ruiz, who is practicing concierge medicine in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Are these new models of primary care attracting a different type of doctor?

At first, Dr. Umbehr thought all his patients were great talkers, then he realized, “It was me. I like to talk a lot.” On her blog. Dr. Sizemore-Ruiz echoes the same, “I like people. A lot. I also like to talk…a lot.”  She says patients attracted to a retainer-based practice are expecting a different type of service and physician,

They want a physician who will talk to them, and take their time.

“I do not like to be rushed, and I do not think that a patient should ever feel rushed. I want to have the time to talk about nutrition, weight loss, prevention of disease, family medical history, etc. I also believe that a patient should have access to their doctor 24/7. Cell phone and e-mail included,” stresses Dr. Sizemore-Ruiz. She makes sure patients know they can follow her in all aspects of social media including her blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Social tools are just a part of Dr. Umbehr’s modern medicine bag. He uses whatever form of communication and technology makes his patients feel comfortable – whether that may be tweeting a younger patient or Skyping with an elderly patient.

As the role of technology grows in medicine, these new primary care doctors realize that time is still a doctor’s most precious gift to their patients.

Mobile Communications Critical

Michael Tetreault, Editor-in-Chief of Concierge Medicine Today, believes mobile communication between the doctor and patient will become increasingly critical because concierge medicine is so relationship intense.

Like Travis Good MD, whom I interviewed for Part One on this topic, Tretreault says there is a huge opportunity in technology for concierge medicine and Direct Primary Care, “There are lots of EMR/EHRs out in the marketplace right now. But a comprehensive practice management system that incorporates billing, patient records, test results, pre-recorded video explanations from the doctor about ‘what this means,’ patient educational tools and checklists, appointment reminders, etc., will simplify doctor-patient communication tremendously.”

Just imagine the possibilities and advances these physicians may make in medicine as more time is spent listening to and communicating with patients based on a relationship of mutual trust and respect, simplified and enhanced by technology.

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HealthIsCool is a writer and trends analyst. She writes about health innovation, wearable tech, the Internet of Things (IoT), new health technologies, and future trends. Her latest trends research includes: The Rise of Wearable Technology and Google's Ambitions in Healthcare. Follow on Twitter at @HealthIsCool.

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