This is the first in a series about healthcare “customer service” addressing patient caring. While there is much to lament about the decided lack of “bedside manner” afforded many under today’s ailing healthcare system, there are bright spots as well. This series focuses on exemplary health-caring innovations that hopefully will spread quickly and help cure what ails us.
Patient caring (a/k/a customer service) has largely disappeared amid a healthcare maelstrom fueled by corporate greed, hubris and power-mongering. Primary care, for example, too often focuses on how fast they can get ‘em in and out, how many pills they can push, how long they make patients wait to schedule an appointment, and how little they can interact beyond the visit itself.
Traditional physicians schooled in the days when patient health was paramount and insurance companies didn’t exert as much influence as they do now must be turning over in their graves—or considering turning over a new leaf livelihood-wise.
However, there are ever-growing rays of hope pushing through the muck and misery. Direct Primary Care, a relatively new model of primary care practice, is one such area. One practitioner is my physician, Stephanie Kraft, whose practice is headquartered in Parker, CO.
I have been a patient for nearly three years. To me, the model is simple. I pay $100 a month to cover all office visits, and remote consultations via phone, Skype and text. The fee also covers a variety of tests, such as EKGs. She also is developing relationships with third-party healthcare entities that offer procedures at substantially discounted prices. In some situations, this is a simple recommendation to services already out there for everyone. In others, Dr. Kraft is pursuing special arrangements/pricing for practice patients.
While all of this works for me, it’s Dr. Kraft’s patient caring demeanor that shines the brightest. Routine visits can last a half-hour or more to ensure getting everything covered and assessed. My last physical, including EKG and the like, ran nearly 1 ½ hours. Scheduling is reasonable, her wisdom and compassion are billboards for what healthcare should be. (And this comes from a guy who doesn’t accept western medicine protocols without questioning and looking at functional medicine alternatives.)
That brings up another kudo for Dr. Kraft. While she is western medicine-focused, she is open to alternative ideas and suggestions. In an environment where we’re all assaulted with competing and confusing assertions and a myriad of “remedies” about what’s healthy, she has proven a sane, sagacious shining light of common sense and intelligent assessment.
“I got into direct primary care because I got tired of the hamster wheel where I was seeing 20 patients a day. Lead times to see patients were too long. I wanted to see a reasonable number of patients a day, so that I would have time to get to know them and develop strong relationships,” notes Dr. Kraft. “I want to help those with chronic health problems and look at the big picture; and help get people as healthy as possible. Five years later, I know my patients and they know that I’m accessible and responsive.”
I’ve found that a combination of office visits, phone consultations, and communications via a healthcare-compliant text and email program have redefined the essence of patient caring. I’ve never felt so well protected and listened to as I have with her.
To me, all of the above makes the monthly investment a no-brainer. However, for many, the fact that Dr. Kraft doesn’t take insurance (except Medicare), seems problematic. I made sure to enroll in an open access health insurance plan where she can refer to/recommend in-network specialty providers to cover everything from ultra-sound tests to skin checks. Insureds who don’t have open access typically have to “adopt” a primary care physician in-network, which muddies the waters about also working with a Direct Primary Care specialist.
I also delight in knowing that insurance companies don’t like Direct Primary Care and do what they can to stymie using it—because it doesn’t mesh with their greedy, arrogant, and power-hungry practices.
Evidently, Direct Primary Care is taking hold despite insurance company challenges. Where I found relatively few options years ago, there are practices now dotting the entire metro Denver landscape. In January, a national association called The Directory Primary Care Alliance launched, and already has 300 members. A review of their website will provide direction and additional information about this type of health care model—and whether or not it makes sense to investigate further.
For me, the search has ended—at least in the primary care arena. Now, if only we can spur the rest of the healthcare industry to become health-caring (a/k/a customer service-focused) once again.
Mark Lusky is a veteran writer, storyteller and author, with 40+ years of public relations, advertising, marketing and journalism experience. Author of A Wandering Wondering Jew… and co-author of Don’t Get Mad, Get Leverage, Mark (aka The Happy Curmudgeon) is the owner of a Denver-based marketing communications firm celebrating 36 years in business in 2018.