Direct Primary Care grows in popularity offering patients a subscription-based healthcare service

For Stephanie Morris, there are no more waiting months to see her doctor, and gone are the days of rushed office visits. "It’s night and day," Morris explained. She has been a patient of Dr. Michael Sparks for the past two years and says she will not be going back to traditional healthcare ever again. "He has the time to sit there and talk to you and really get down to what’s going on, so it’s been life-changing," Morris said. 

The Sanford doctor runs a direct primary care practice and it is being described as the Netflix for health care. 

"Patients pay us directly, a flat rate membership rate and that covers all your primary care and so patients pay us directly a flat monthly membership rate and that covers all your primary care services. So no copay visits when they come in, they get a cell phone number where they can text us, call us directly," Dr. Michael Sparks explained. According to his website, people 0-18 years are charged $30 per month with a registered adult parent. Patients 19–55 years are charged $70 per month and patients 56 and older are charged $90 per month. The maximum family, which includes two adults and unlimited minor children in the same household, is charged $225 monthly. 

Morris said she was looking for healthcare for her family who did not have insurance when she learned about direct primary care. She said, "None of them had insurance, and although I’ve been fortunate enough to have insurance through my husband’s job, they didn’t and when they got sick it was like what do we do?"

The subscription-based primary care is growing in popularity as the trend for hospitals and private equity groups to employ more physicians. Marni Carey, president of Power to the Patients, said, "Doctors are becoming more burned out and as they are getting more burned out, they’re seeking ways to find greater autonomy and this is absolutely a way to go." Power to the Patients is a national nonprofit organization that works toward achieving price transparency in healthcare. Carey says the subscription-based alternative offers patients an opportunity to shop around. "It’s definitely a solution in an era and in an industry where access is difficult, prices are hard to know, and you are being played against different providers," Carey added.

While this type of healthcare option may not be suited best for the young and healthy, here is who Carey says would make a good candidate: anyone with a chronic illness that needs to be managed and needs a quick response time, like people with diabetes or hypertension and older people with multiple health issues.

For Morris, she says it has made a huge difference in the quality of healthcare she receives and Dr. Sparks says he has been able to get back to the real reason he decided to become a doctor. "I feel a lot more rewarded at the end of the day. I feel like I actually get to practice medicine and take care of people instead of just checking boxes," Dr. Sparks said.