Direct Medicine: is it right for you?

The short answer is yes (unless you’re an insurance middleman, then probably not).

If you haven’t been following the news over the last decade or so, it may shock you to find out that the world of medicine is woefully inefficient. Giant megacorporate healthcare firms, labyrinthine insurance protocols and an overriding ethos of putting profits over patients have created a system that might line the pockets of shareholders and CEOs, but doesn’t do much for you when you’re in need of medical care.

Physicians Pete and Christi Ghaleb, founders of Family Medicine of Pooler, spent eight long years as part of that system. From their vantage points inside the machine, they saw how the system almost seemed designed to make them provide worse care, shuffling patients in and out of their offices and battling stacks of insurance paperwork rather than caring for those who needed it.

“We just knew something had to change,” said Pete.

They took the bold step of not only going out on their own, but structuring their practice around the principles of direct primary care. Essentially, this model cuts out the middleman of insurance and governmental regulations, giving you direct access to your doctor. When you sign up as a patient, you pay a registration fee and then a monthly fee akin to a subscription service,  and in return you get truly individualized care and direct access to your doctor.

And while you might think going around insurance would come with a hefty price tag, it turns out that circumventing the time spent dealing with the mountains of paperwork more than pays for itself. “We found that we had much more time with the patient and were able to reduce the cost tremendously and pass those savings on,” said Pete. “It turns out it does not cost that much to get medical care.”

Beyond ultimately saving money, the benefit of direct primary care for patients are legion. The first one you’ll notice is that without the hectic on-the-fly scheduling of a traditional clinic, you’ll no longer be wasting your day in the waiting room waiting for your name to be called. And that’s before you ever see a doctor – once you you’re in the exam room, you’re going to have an entire hour with your doctor so you can go in-depth in describing your exact needs.

“The old style was a quick conversation where the doctor doesn’t have enough time to go over one, maybe two concerns a patient might have,” said Pete. “The way we do it, we’re really talking with the patient. Beyond the primary thing they’re in for, we’re discussing their needs down the line, the little things you wouldn’t normally be able to share.”

And if anything does spring to mind after you leave, help is just a call away. “Our patients have access to a physician basically 24/7,” said Pete. “You have their cell number, so you can call them. Not to a switchboard, not to a nurse, but directly to your physician.”