Let’s talk about healthcare! I know healthcare and health insurance can be a touchy topic these days, especially with the spike in insurance premiums. Trust me, my husband and I are feeling the pinch, too. But healthcare is an important topic that everyone should take the time to learn more about. I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Paul Thomas of Detroit to learn more about his practice Plum Health Direct Primary Care. If you are unfamiliar with direct primary care or are considering becoming a member of a direct primary healthcare plan, check out today’s blog post!
Imagine a healthcare system where you do not have to wait a month or longer to see your primary care provider for a routine appointment. When you see the doctor, you would not have to wait in the waiting room for over 30 minutes and then wait another 20 minutes or more in the exam room. Your visit would not be limited to twenty minutes, either. Instead, your doctor would reserve an hour to sit and talk with you about your healthcare concerns or needs.
Or what if you have suddenly fallen ill or hurt your back while moving furniture in your home? Making a trip to urgent care may be challenging, and waiting for a next available appointment with your doctor could also take longer than you would like. What if your doctor could fit you in his/her schedule for a same-day appointment or next-day appointment? Better yet, what if your doctor could make a house call and come to your home and check on your condition?
This, my friend, is direct primary care healthcare, and it is becoming the new way of practicing medicine. More and more people are looking for doctors who are not only professional but who also take the time to get to know them and their health concerns.
Dr. Paul Thomas of Plum Health Direct Primary Care (Detroit, Michigan) is on a mission to offer more patient-centered healthcare to his patients. I had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Paul, as he likes for his patients to call him, and talk to him about what direct primary care is and how his new practice Plum Health is beneficial to patients.
What is Direct Primary Health Care?
First, what exactly is direct primary health care? According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the direct primary care (DPC) model gives family physicians a meaningful alternative to fee-for-service insurance billing. Patients pay a monthly, quarterly, or annual membership fee for DPC “that covers all or most primary care services including clinical, laboratory, and consultative services.”
“The American Academy of Family Physicians supports the physician and patient choice to, respectively, provide and receive health care in any ethical health care delivery system model, including the DPC practice setting.” —American Academy of Family Physicians
Dr. Paul Thomas strongly believes in the direct primary health care model. He believes in creating a healthcare system “where we can have happy doctors and healthier patients.” Dr. Paul also believes healthcare should be affordable and accessible for everyone. “Insurance companies put up barriers and make costs convoluted and limit folks access to their doctors,” Dr. Paul told me.
“So I wanted to create a clinic where I could be available, accessible, reachable by cell phone, text, email and accountable to my patients.” And along with making himself more available to his patients, Dr. Paul also features affordable price plans for patients ages infant to 65+. (See pricing plan chart below.)
What’s Old is New Again
In November 2016, Dr. Paul started making house calls for patients. A doctor who makes house calls? I am sure you’re thinking, I thought that was just something that happened in the movies or back in the old days. But it’s true. Dr. Paul sometimes makes house calls for patients on a case-by-case basis. “What’s old is new again. I’m like a community doctor, so to speak.”
Dr. Paul’s house call services are offered on a case-by-case basis and at an additional fee based on proximity to Dr. Paul’s office.
Can you imagine how helpful it would be to have your primary care provider make a house call if you are feeling suddenly ill or if you have a sick child? I am a mom of four children, soon-to-be five, and this would be a very helpful feature to have on my family’s healthcare plan.
Plum Health Direct Primary Care Offered in Detroit and Beyond
Dr. Paul opened his Southwest office (1759 W. 21st Street, Detroit) in January 2017. He is the only direct primary care doctor in Wayne County, but his medical practice is not limited to Detroit. He also serves patients in the greater Detroit area.
At the time of our June meeting, there were 101 members of Plum Health Direct Primary Care.
Plum Health also offers small business and student rates.
Benefits of Plum Health Direct Primary Care
No More Copays or Visit Fees
I, personally, had an experience a few weeks ago when I had to make a doctor’s appointment for my son’s six-month medicine evaluation. His doctor does not accept our insurance so I had to pay out-of-pocket for the visit. It cost me $125 for his 20-minute visit which consisted of a questionnaire and routine check-up. No labs or any other special services were administered. I remember leaving the doctor’s office feeling frustrated for paying so much money for such a short visit.
On the other hand, with direct primary care, a patient does not have to worry about being charged high visit fees. Dr. Paul is trying to make healthcare transparent by getting rid of copays and visit fees. Plum Health eliminates the frustration and hassle of healthcare costs with the low monthly membership rate. There are no hidden fees or high visit fees when a patient needs to see Dr. Paul because the visits are included with the Plum Health monthly membership fee.
Call Your Doctor Directly
Another great benefit of Plum Health Direct Primary Care is patients have the opportunity to speak directly to Dr. Paul without the hassle of long wait times and call screenings. Instead of having to go through a series of steps just to talk to their doctor, patients can call, text, or email Dr. Paul directly. In some cases, some doctors require you to leave a message with the office staff for a callback.
Most of the time the office staff member screen’s the doctor’s calls and you have to tell the staff member exactly what it is you need or what your question is. Then you wait for the doctor to call you back, which can be anywhere from the same day or one to two days later, all depending on the doctor’s schedule.
Members of Plum Health have Dr. Paul’s cell phone number and email address. They can reach him anytime they need to ask a question in regards to their health.
“I wanted to create a clinic where I could be available by cellphone, text, email and accountable to my patients.” –Dr. Paul, Plum Health Direct Primary Care
Other Benefits of Plum Health Direct Primary Care
- One-hour doctor visits, same-day or next-day guarantee for urgent care.
- Plum Health buys medications at wholesale.
- Dr. Paul can get you at-cost laboratory services.
- Call, text, and/or email Dr. Paul at any time, even after hours.
- Dr. Paul takes care of a wide range of conditions.
- Your medical records are not shared with anyone else unless you specifically request for your records to be sent.
- Members have access to at-cost imaging services such as chest x-rays, ultrasounds, and CT scans.
- Dr. Paul sees patients who are insured and uninsured. *He highly recommends you keep your health insurance when becoming a member of Plum Health.
- Plum Health uses an e-consult platform called Rubicon MD if the doctor needs to get a second opinion on difficult questions. Rubicon MD has access to over 200 medical specialists and it is included in the Plum Health membership.
“Why perpetuate a bad system? Let’s have a paradigm shift and train more doctors to be direct primary care doctors.” –Dr. Paul, Plum Health Direct Primary Care
How is health insurance different from healthcare?
One very important fact patients need to understand is health insurance is different from healthcare. “Health insurance is a financial tool that we use to protect ourselves from bankruptcy in case of a medical emergency,” Dr. Paul explained. “It also covers things like hospital care, in case you have a stroke, heart attack, or you’re in a large car accident. Everyone should have health insurance.”
Dr. Paul further explained healthcare is a relationship you typically have with a doctor. “Maybe with a physician’s assistant or nurse practitioner or maybe even a more traditional healer or somebody who practices Eastern medicine.”
“It’s where you feel taken care of, listened to…and then that doctor or healthcare provider gives you medications out of the office or draws labs in the office and they do it at a price point that’s palatable for you.”
Don’t Give Up Your Health Insurance!
Plum Health is a healthcare service for patients. It does not take the place of health insurance. If you are interested in signing up for direct primary care, you should still keep your health insurance.
Dr. Paul stresses everyone should have health insurance. “You need to have these two things [healthcare and health insurance] to cover yourself entirely.”
“It’s foolish to think that because you have health insurance means that you have great healthcare.” —Dr. Paul, Plum Health
What the Naysayers are Saying About Direct Primary Care
Critics of direct primary health care say physicians who use the direct primary care model are abandoning patients because they see a smaller number of patients. Dr. Paul is making an argument that “those 2,500 people aren’t getting great care in the first place because their doctor is stretched too thin. It’s going to cause burn out for the doctor and bad outcomes for the patient.”
How so? Dr. Paul explains, “the typical family medicine doctor in the insurance-based world has 2,400 patients. If each patient has two visits a year, that’s 4,800 visits divided across 250 working days. You’re essentially going to have to have 22-24 visits each day to keep up with that number of patients. That’s with two visits only.”
In a typical doctor’s eight-hour working day, he/she would see a patient about every 20 minutes. The patient sees the doctor for about five minutes and then the doctor has to fulfill charting requirements for about 10-15 minutes.”It feels like this assembly line,” Dr. Paul says.
In Dr. Paul’s practice, he sees about 5 – 8 patients a day. This gives him the freedom to sit down with his patients for about an hour and talk with them face to face. He says he’s seeing about 1/5 of people a typical family medicine doctor sees, and he’s giving five times the time to each individual. “And that’s what makes my practice unique.”
“We need to attract the best primary care doctors. Seeing 2,400 people is really unappealing, unappetizing. You feel bad because you are not delivering the greatest care and you’re burnt out all of the time so why not create a system where we can have happy doctors and healthier patients.”
Special thanks to Dr. Paul Thomas for taking the time to meet with me and share information about Plum Health Direct Primary Care!
For more information about Plum Health Direct Primary Care, contact Dr. Paul Thomas at (313) 444-5630 or visit the Plum Health website.
Plum Health, PLLC
Direct Primary Care
1759 W. 21st Street
Detroit, Michigan 48216
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