Healthcare, not health insurance.

Healthcare, not health insurance.

By Dr. Kirsten Lin, MD

Once a young girl with a dream to become a doctor, I have always had a heart for serving others and felt my calling was in the healing arts. My own pediatrician, Dr. Bernie Michaels, was a hero to me; he had perfected the ability to administer shots painlessly, but more importantly, he spent time offering advice to my parents.

As I journeyed through medical training and finally became a full-fledged family doc, I began to notice some disturbing trends. During the first decade of my professional life as a physician employed by large health systems, I was compelled to see more and more patients. Cutting corners and “assembly-line medical care” became a regrettable way of life that I knew I could not continue. I had, after all, taken an oath to “do no harm.”

How did my beloved profession arrive at this pitiful state? We could spend years discussing that topic, but let me attempt a “Cliff’s Notes” version: I believe health insurance, both government-run and privately-owned, has drastically overstepped its purpose. After all, when was the last time you used your car insurance to pay for a tune-up or purchase gasoline? Similarly, why should we be spending thousands of our hard-earned dollars on expensive health insurance to cover inexpensive primary care services?

In addition, insurers have increased the complexity of the claims process to such a degree that health systems must now hire additional staff by the hundreds, thereby increasing overhead and contributing to the exponential rise in healthcare costs over the past decade in the U.S. Now, in order to turn a profit, physicians often need to see 25-30 patients a day. Studies have shown that physicians currently spend two-thirds of their office time on the computer. Even if the physician skips lunch (which we almost always do), that’s less than 11 minutes per patient.

If every patient had a cold, that system would work perfectly! But many patients need physicals, or they have problems that take much longer than 11 minutes to manage. For example: sometimes, a cold is more than just a cold; I once treated a patient for a “sinus infection” that turned out, through careful diagnosis, to be a fatal facial cancer.

Direct primary care (DPC) offers a refreshing alternative to the broken system I left behind. Under the DPC model, patients pay an affordable monthly fee in exchange for all typical outpatient services, including physicals, chronic disease management, well woman care, acute illness and care of minor injuries. The greatest value of DPC is time with, and access to, your physician. Most DPCs offer 30-60 minute appointments, and patients have the option to interact with their physician via phone, email, video chat or text. If you have strep throat at 11 p.m. on a Saturday, you can meet your personal physician at the office and receive treatment from someone who knows you. DPC practices also offer patients cost savings through discounted generic medications, laboratory and radiology testing, and other services. For my family, this meant a savings of $250/month for my daughter’s eye drops (yes, the equivalent of one teaspoon of medication cost $274/month through the insurance plan we had, which was supposed to be “excellent”).

Many of my patients have been able to transfer to a bronze insurance plan on the healthcare marketplace, or to a health-sharing ministry, and combine that with a membership to my practice. This helps them to save money and to experience exceptional healthcare.

Direct primary care is a community-supported model of healthcare that just might provide one solution to the ailing healthcare system in our country.

Dr. Kirsten Lin is a primary care family doctor at Family Matters Direct Primary Care in Hampton Township, serving patients in northern Allegheny and southern Butler counties. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Dr. Lin has practiced family medicine in the area for more than 11 years. Dr. Lin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Pennsylvania State University and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Pittsburgh, serving in the internship/residency program at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital. Personal interests include music (playing the piano and harp), travel, and fitness.

 

Dr. Kirsten Lin is a primary care family doctor at Family Matters Direct Primary Care in Hampton Township, serving patients in northern Allegheny and southern Butler counties. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Dr. Lin has practiced family medicine in the area for more than 11 years. Dr. Lin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Pennsylvania State University and a Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Pittsburgh, serving in the internship/residency program at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital. Personal interests include music (playing the piano and harp), travel, and fitness.

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