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Family Matters Direct Primary Care – A “New” Model of Care
By Kevin Brown


“Everything old is new again” is a familiar expression that could apply to a “new” medical practice model that is beginning to take hold in western Pennsylvania. Called “direct primary care,” it bypasses health insurance and offers significant cost-savings and quality of care.

“I sometimes describe it as “new”, but it’s a very old-fashioned method where it cuts out the middle-men, insurance companies and administrators,” says Dr. Kirsten Lin, founder of Family Matters Direct Primary Care (DPC) in the North Hills. “It is a direct relationship between the doctor and the patient where the patient is paying me directly for the medical care I provide to them.”

Dr. Lin opened Family Matters DPC in October 2017 after spending nearly 10 years as a primary care physician in a health-system medical practice. She was seeking greater autonomy and the ability to provide a higher level of care to her patients. “As I was going along in my health-system-based practice, I began to feel like the oath I took to do no harm when I first became a physician was being eroded.”

Family Matters DPC accepts all patients, but does not bill insurance. Under the direct primary care practice model, patients pay a monthly fee that covers office visits, home visits, and expanded access to Dr. Lin via text, e-mail and phone calls.

“The patients pay their monthly fee and they know they can contact me at any time. They have that nice piece of mind. I have patients that come in for one physical a year and I have patients that I talk to once or twice a week. I don’t charge anything extra – there’s no co-pay or any kind of additional fees,” she explains.

A traditional practice might have 2,500 to 3,000 patients per physician. A direct primary care practice limits patients to 600 per physician. Dr. Lin explains that, “The patient finally has access to me. They can go online and schedule an appointment to be seen later this afternoon. They have my cellphone number and can text me or call me at any time. When they are here in the exam room, I see them for 30 to 60 minutes depending on their needs.”

When patients need a lab test, Dr. Lin refers them to a local lab where she has negotiated pricing. A typical set of labs for diabetes might cost Dr. Lin’s patients about $20 to $25. She has done the same for imaging studies and advanced cardiac testing like echocardiograms and stress tests.

“If there is something I don’t have, I will get on the phone and call all over Pittsburgh to figure out who has the best pricing and I’ll let the patient know,” she says. “I purchase medications on a wholesale basis and then my patients can receive their generic medications here with no markups like you would get at the pharmacy.”

Dr. Lin now has time to offer more services to patients in the office. In the traditional practice, she would have simply referred them to a specialist. Family Matters DPC is also associated with several other direct care practices in Pittsburgh under the banner of Direct Care Physicians of Pittsburgh. Dr. Ashley Kittridge, a dermatologist, operates under the direct care practice model in the South Hills, but sees patients once a month at the Family Matters DPC office. Future plans include bringing in a gynecologist to see patients for advanced gynecology care.

The direct primary care model also offers benefits to the physician. “I have lost six colleagues to suicide, which is one of the reasons I find myself here,” she says. “Because I now have a limited patient panel, that means I also have time for my own self-care. I can be at home with my family. I’m not doing charts when I am at home. I have time to go to the gym and take care of myself, so that’s important. The autonomy that I now have is very important. I’m not glued to the computer because I have to click all the boxes to make the insurance companies happy.”

Family Matters DPC also contracts with small businesses to provide primary medical care to their employees. According to Dr. Lin, businesses that offer direct primary care to their employees can save money because insurance claims go down due to less “downstream” care in the emergency department, hospital admissions, specialist care, etc. Data has also shown that direct primary care patients tend to be healthier than traditional care patients.

Family Matters DPC’s growth has been such that Dr. Lin brought on a second physician, Dr. Lela Dougherty, last summer. “I feel great about where things stand right now,” she says.

As for the future, Dr. Lin would like to continue to grow Family Matters DPC. “I would love to have other campuses of Family Matters DPC and to be able to hire other physicians, including specialists.”

For more information or to schedule an appointment at Family Matters DPC, visit www.familymattersdpc.com or call (412) 685-3373. For more information on direct care, visit www.dpcfrontier.com and www.dpcnation.org online.



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