A new study found that although direct primary care (DPC) practices often offer the same types of services and bill the same way as other providers, they may use different terms to describe their practice models.
Researchers Philip Eskew, a visiting scholar at the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care, and Kathleen Klink, former medical director at the Robert Graham Center, analyzed practices that used words like "DPC," "concierge," "boutique" or similar terms to describe their practices. The study looked at 141 primary care practices.
Findings from the study, "Direct Primary Care: Practice Distribution and Cost Across the Nation," was published in the November-December issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine.
The study defined a DPC practice as one charging a periodic fee, charging less than a periodic membership fee per office visit and not billing third parties on a fee-for-services basis.
The study revealed that DPC practices charge an average of $77 a month in membership fees while those identifying themselves as concierge practices charge $183. The study also found that some practices use a hybrid model that combines DPC with fees for service.
"From a health policy standpoint, the more confusion stays around, the more concierge medicine benefits while DPC will be held back," Eskew said.
Many DPC practices studied also charge a one-time enrollment fee that averaged $78.
The study also found that 93 percent of the practices they studied include four or fewer physicians.
"It is popular for small practices because it lets them take advantage of being small," Eskew said. "Everything in health care is about getting bigger and bigger so you can negotiate better."
Study explores definition of direct primary care