What It’s Like Being a Patient in a Direct Primary Care Practice
When Jason, an Indianapolis-area resident and local high school football coach, started experiencing issues from the spinal stenosis in his lower back, he says conventional health care systems and in-network physicians weren’t much help. “They could run the tests and show me what I might be dealing with, but in regards to providing any answers for my problem, they were giving me very little,” he says.
That’s when Jason turned to direct primary care physician Dr. Richard Schuster of Schuster Family Medicine and Osteopathic Care. As a DPC physician who specializes in osteopathic manipulation, not only did Dr. Schuster help alleviate Jason’s physical problems, he took the time to really get to know Jason and develop a relationship beyond what’s possible in a traditional medicine setting.
“He knows me, and he actually knows my children and my wife now. Our whole family comes to him, and it’s almost as if he’s part of our family,” Jason says. “When it comes to our health, I feel as though he’s the one who we all trust.”
The DPC Difference Starts at the Door
Jason says he expected Dr. Schuster to be the same as any other doctor, until he was personally greeted by the doctor when he walked through the office door.
“It was very relieving,” Jason says. “He immediately explained to me what was going on and why I was feeling this pain. He also took me thoroughly through everything we were going to do to alleviate it. He would then sit me down and talk about what we can do next in our plan for how to manage the pain, and also how to get me back to strength so I have a full recovery.”
When Jason has a health-related question, he says Dr. Schuster always responds in a timely manner. One time, when the issue was a bit complicated, Dr. Schuster skipped the routine chat and picked up the phone to call Jason and get more details. “He just flat-out called me up and talked to me like he was a friend who already knew the situation,” Jason says. “I feel like that is someone who’s showing they care.”
Developing the Physician and Patient Relationship through DPC
For Dr. Schuster, it’s critical to not only give his patients plenty of his time and unlimited access, but also actively work on building the patient-physician relationship. Because he’s now a direct care physician, the only person he’s responsible to is the patient sitting in front of him — not a health insurance company or medical group dictating how he spends his time and runs his practice.
“In Jason’s case, with a back pain issue and somebody who is very physical in their job, you have to take time to sit down and actually understand what their job entails, their limitations, and what we need to do to adapt,” Schuster says. “It isn’t even just time. You’re developing a relationship with someone, and that’s entirely different than someone who doesn’t know you and you don’t know them, so any interaction you have is now trying to meet that.
“When Jason calls, I know what’s going on with him. I know his history, because I’m the one who did his history,” Schuster continues. “Because you got to know them, very often, they’re going to tell you things they would never tell a stranger. You’re going to get the real story, and in context with a real history, you understand more about what’s going on.”
Putting Patients at Ease
Jason says communicating with Dr. Schuster is really easy, usually by sending a text through an app-based health care communication tool. He can also video chat with the physician for a virtual visit. “It’s a great feeling to be able to open up to somebody about your concerns with your health,” Jason says. “I probably could ask to see him almost every day and he would probably say yes.”
One time when Jason’s daughter had a concerning cough, they were able to do a virtual chat so Dr. Schuster could evaluate whether or not she needed to come into the office for treatment. “His availability has helped us to have nights where we’re able to sleep knowing our kids are OK,” Jason says. “With him as our primary care physician, I really feel like this is a very long-term relationship that we’re building.”
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