When was the last time you called your doctor’s office and actually spoke directly with your physician?
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably rarely spoken with your doctor outside of your regularly scheduled appointment at his or her office.
But what if you not only had your doctor’s direct-dial phone number, but you could also text them at any time of the day or even on weekends?
That’s the kind of patient accessibility Dr. Vasanth Kainkaryam offers in his medical practice, 4 Elements Direct Primary Care.
Under the practice’s business model, Dr. Kainkaryam doesn’t take insurance payments; instead his patients pay a monthly membership fee for his services and can visit or speak without having to worry about the costs of consultation.
Direct primary care is a growing trend among some doctors in the United States as more health care professionals grow weary of dealing with the myriad of health insurance providers and the mountains of paperwork and demands health insurers place on patients and health care professionals.
Dr. Kainkaryam, whose offices are in South Windsor and Rocky Hill, started his practice as a direct primary care model in 2019.
An internist and pediatrician, he decided to open his own practice as a direct care office because he thought it was the best way to interact with patients and address the shortfalls of the country’s health care system.
“I came to the conclusion that you can’t fix the healthcare system from the top down, it’s too broken. The only way you can fix it is from the bottom up, by keeping health care real, keeping it authentic and keeping it patient-centered.”
There are about 1,500 doctor’s offices in the U.S. right now that follow the direct primary care model, that’s more than double the number that were in existence just five years ago, Dr. Kainkaryam says.
Medical practices that don’t accept insurance have fewer patients, but much less overhead in staff that are needed to deal with all of the demands and paperwork of insurance providers. In addition, doctors who are freed from having to meet the dictates of insurance companies can spend more time with their patients and are freed from the stress of insurance providers demands.
Patients, in turn, get more time with their doctors since physicians who operate a direct care office don’t need to take on as many patients because insurance payments don’t keep up with their business costs. People often ask him if his practice is concierge medicine but it's not. Concierge models often bill insurance and charge a high retainer fee for non-covered services. Direct primary care does neither.
In addition, he has a dedicated phone number he gives his patients so they can contact him directly. He said his patients can also text him and he can usually schedule office visits with patients either same day or within a day.
“I spend an hour, sometimes two hours, with my patients,” he says. “When you call, text or email me you get me directly, not someone in the office.”
His patients pay anywhere from $35 to $100 each month, typically depending on their age.
The costs, Dr. Kainkaryam says, generally add up to less than what patients might accrue in insurance copays or deductibles.
In addition, he can directly dispense medications and order lab tests for less than what most pharmacies and third-party uppliers charge.
Best of all, he said, patients don’t have to worry about whether their insurance policy will cover certain procedures or medications.
He can handle about 90 percent of the medical needs patients have and when they have special medical needs, he has direct relationships with a long list of medical specialists he can call on.
The benefits of direct primary care are threefold, he says.
Patient experience and satisfaction is far better, costs are lower and the direct care model is highly sustainable for both doctors and patients.