Primary care: It’s where we go when we feel sick, have an injury, or just need a yearly physical. Primary care doctors are the “jack of all trades” in medicine. They know anything and everything when it comes to health, and we depend on them to be able to take care of us.
But did you know?
There are several misconceptions that people have about primary care doctors. We’re here to clear them up because you should know everything you can about how to ensure that you’re getting the best direct patient care for you and your family.
Misconception #1: Any doctor can perform primary care because it’s easy
Nope. In fact, in order to become a family doctor, you have to first go through the grueling process of applying to get into medical school where they only accept the best of the best. Then, if you’re accepted, you go through four long years of medical school. Once you finish that you’re still not done with school. You’ll do another 3 years of family practice residency where it’s typical to work 80 hours per week learning about treating patients and going through clinical situations.
So why do family physicians go through this?
Primary care physicians have to know a lot in order to treat all of the unique cases that come through their office. People go to them for any kind of sickness, injury and other health needs and the doctors are expected to be able to know how to treat every unique case that comes to them.
Sure, anyone could just give you a stack of referrals and send you on a wild goose chase to figure out how to get better, but a good family practice doctor is going to help their patients understand the bigger picture and help them on the road to feeling better.
Misconception #2: Family doctors only hand out referrals and don’t deal with any medical conditions
Not true. A family physician that’s well trained seldom gives out referrals for specialists. Unless a sickness or injury is extremely severe and the doctor thinks it would be better for the patient to see a specialist, they will work with the patient to help them get back on their feet. It takes a competent and intelligent doctor to realize they may need extra help in solving a sickness but they typically only refer out about 10% of the time.
Misconception #3: Any kind of medical care is expensive
Incorrect. Of course, doctors are humans and they make mistakes. However, a well-trained physician will be able to help patients with their problems quicker and more accurately and keep them from having to return to the doctor's office. Doctors want to help their patients in any way they can, and that means finding a treatment plan that won’t cost an arm and a leg and get you feeling better quickly.
However, there are doctors that make as much money as possible off of a single issue. If you have to come in to visit a physician multiple times about the same problem or are encouraged to come into the office just to hear test results, you may be paying more than necessary.
Direct primary care allows you to avoid this by being a part of a medical team that you can visit whenever you need to, without spending extra money each time. You can actually save a ton of money by using direct care because the doctors work individually with you rather than making you jump through hoops with insurance companies. And, if you become a member, many of the direct primary care fees already include payments for certain procedures and tests.
Misconception #4: If you can’t find a physician that will take your insurance you won’t be able to afford the medical costs
This is a myth! Insurance companies should not have the power to tell you which doctors you can and can’t see. Most people will choose to pick a doctor “in network” because that’s what their insurance covers, even if it’s not the care provider they wish to see. Some people will even drive great distances to go to a doctor that’s in their network when there’s a doctor (not in their network) that’s just a 5-minute drive away from them!
In network doctors may end up costing you more money than you think. Most visits will cost $100-$150 and on top of that, you’ll have a copay as well as the cost of any tests you need. But if you choose to go to a direct primary care doctor, those fees are reduced significantly, often, even up to 90%.
Misconception #5: I don’t need to see the doctor when I can just Google my symptoms
Please don’t believe this one! The internet may have a lot of information, but it isn’t personalized and it hasn’t gone to school for 7 years to learn how to interpret individual cases. Because there are so many different sicknesses in the world, it is highly likely that a symptom you type into Google could come up as a number of different illnesses, and you may not even find the one you have!
Searching your symptoms online can actually be dangerous because if you do have a sickness that is in need of immediate care, you’re only prolonging the process of getting better by not seeing a doctor right away. Doctors will be able to listen to your concerns and nip the problem in the bud. Unlike the internet, which will tell you that you have cancer when it’s really just a head cold.
Luckily, with direct primary care, you can have full access to your doctor via phone and email. You’ll be able to get answers quickly and accurately which is a much better option than trying your luck with Google searching your symptoms.
Misconception #6: Urgent care centers are a better alternative to seeing my doctor because they are more convenient and less expensive.
Wrong! It’s true that urgent care centers can be more convenient but they are certainly not less expensive. The reason urgent care exists is because doctors have too many patients to take care of. But when you visit an urgent care, it is more likely that you will be seen by a physician assistant or nurse practitioner, not a doctor. Unfortunately, they won’t know your medical history like your doctor does and may not be able to provide the correct form of treatment plans for you.
Urgent care doesn’t fix the problem, it just covers it with a bandaid until it resurfaces again. So why choose a more convenient option if it’s not actually going to help you in the long run? You’ll eventually end up spending more time and money trying to figure out how to get better. But if you had just gone to your family practice doctor, you would have gotten the help you needed much quicker.
Misconception #7: Lab tests will cost the same amount wherever you go
Not true! It is true that some doctor's offices will use other companies such as Quest or LabCorp when sending out your samples which can end up costing you a fortune. They will often charge you up to 10 times the actual cost in order to make money off of you.
However, if you’re going to a direct primary care office, the lab fees are significantly smaller because you’re working directly with the doctor and your payments are going right to them and not through other companies. At normal offices, the same test that costs up to $1700 not covered by insurance, may only cost you a few dollars at a direct care facility, like Elevated Health Direct Primary Care.
What is Direct Primary Care?
So now that we’ve cleared a few things up, let’s talk about direct primary care.
Through direct care, patients can enjoy unlimited access to their doctors via phone, email and video chat 24/7 as well as unlimited doctor visits for a monthly fee. Patients can be assured that their payments are going right to the doctor and not through a complicated system of insurance companies. DPC tends to be more transparent than other doctors' offices when it comes to payment. The goal of direct primary care is to provide affordable and convenient care for all patients.
There’s no need to wait and see if your severe head cold will blow ever, you can go to the doctor anytime and get the care you need. The family physician will have you back on your feet in no time.
Elevated Health in Huntington Beach, CA
At Elevated Health in Huntington Beach, CA, we take direct patient care very seriously. Our family medicine doctors work hard to ensure that you’re getting the best care for your needs.
Don’t put it off any longer. Learn more about becoming a direct primary care member today. You’ll have unlimited access to your health care providers and peace of mind knowing that you’re getting the best care for you. Use this opportunity to take care of yourself and get answers to questions you have about your health.
About the Author
Matthew Abinante is a board-certified family physician providing direct primary care to patients of all ages. Offering excellent care, diagnosis, and techniques, he continually participates in educational opportunities to best serve his patients. Working in Huntington Beach, he analyzes common aches and pains, proposes innovative treatment plans, and provides specialized services for each individual patient.
After excelling for years, Matthew received his DO and MPH from Touro University in Vallejo, CA. Matthew completed his residency training at PIH Health Hospital in Downey, CA, where he became a board-certified and trusted family physician who values patient-doctor relationships and clear communication.