Doctor describes shift to ‘direct primary care’ model of healthcare

Doctor describes shift toward direct primary care model

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A major shift is taking place in the healthcare system. We’ve been reporting on a number of local doctors, who left their traditional jobs to practice something different.

Fewer patients, longer appointments, and more time to counsel: Those are the reasons Dr. Laura Petrescu chose to leave her fee-for-service job with Rochester Regional Health and start anew. Now she offers what’s called direct primary care.

Petrescu founded Athena Direct Primary Care about a year ago, after she left her job of almost 14 years with RRH. 

Direct primary care, as she describes it, involves a monthly fee for the patient. With that subscription, the patient gets quicker access to the doctor. Same or next-day appointments, hour-long appointments, and In-office procedures are included in their membership.

Her decision to launch this kind of care, came after years of burnout, and not being able to care for patients her way. 

“There is always a push for seeing more patients everyday,” she said. “A typical primary care physician will see 15, 20, 25, 30 patients a day,” Petrescu said.

On her old schedule, she had about 15 minutes per patient; not enough for counseling, and quality care.

“Out of that 15 minutes, patients have to check in, check out, talk with the nurses, and I am left face-to-face with a patient for five minutes, maybe seven minutes,” Petrescu said.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, Petrescu isn’t alone. A 2021 study said there has been a misplaced focus on acute care rather than on prevention and population health. It said hospitals today are typically responsible for the largest portion of spending in health care, but it’s expected that within 10 years, care will move from the hospital into the community and home.

Petrescu said there’s a lot of doctors exploring things like direct primary care, or concierge medicine.

“In concierge medicine, physicians also typically bill insurance, along with an annual membership fee,” she said.

She said direct primary care is a monthly fee, and more affordable.

“Everything I do in the office is included in a low monthly membership fee, but obviously in our area most people do have insurance and they can use that insurance for any services outside of my office,” Petrescu said.

For her practice, individual patients pay about $119 a month. A concierge practice may charge double that, plus insurance co-pays.

Petrescu said this is the happiest she has ever been in her career. She hopes to have a few physicians partner with her in the next five years.

In previous stories on this matter, Rochester Regional Health said, “We remain true to our mission to provide high-quality, affordable, and accessible care to our patients and the community.”