Patient-Physician Relationship: The Power of Direct Patient Care

Check out the interview with Dr. Lara Kenney and delve deeper into some differences between the patient-physician relationship in the traditional system versus Direct Care.

The patient-physician relationship is the cornerstone of healthcare delivery, representing the bond and collaboration between a patient with you. It extends beyond medical consultations, encompassing trust, empathy, and mutual respect.

At its core, this relationship is built on open communication, where patients feel comfortable sharing their concerns, symptoms, and medical history with you. In turn, you listen attentively, provide clear explanations, and involve patients in decision-making regarding their health.

Understanding The Patient-Physician Relationship in Direct Care

Direct Care has been transforming the way patient-physician relationships are built. To shed more light on that, we conducted an interview with Dr. Lara Kenney, the founder of Leeton Medical, a Direct Care Practice located in Missouri. 

As an Internal Medicine doctor and board-certified hematologist-oncologist, she practices Direct Primary Care and Direct Specialty Care at the same office. Opening her practice in 2019, Dr. Kenney embarked on this journey after seeking an exit from her previous employment. Now, with five years of experience under her belt, she couldn't be happier.

This autonomy has empowered her to take on various leadership roles within the medical community, including co-founding the Direct Specialty Care Alliance, and serving as a board member for DPC Alliance. Furthermore, Dr. Kenney has been documenting patient stories impacted by insurance denials.

Today, Dr. Kenney will share with us the profound differences between her previous employment and her current role as a Direct Care physician, shedding light on the autonomy, satisfaction, and advocacy that come with this career shift.

How do you perceive the patient-physician relationship in your role as a hematologist-oncologist?

I'm a practicing hematologist-oncologist, so it's a very unique, sometimes sadly close relationship. I'm taking care of patients who have just found out they may have a terminal illness. Even if it's not terminal, it's certainly a life-changing event. They quickly bond to you, placing their trust in you because their life depends on you.

What challenges did you face regarding scheduling and patient care during your employment, and how has Direct Care improved this patient-physician relationship aspect for you?

When I was employed, I still maintained the same level of ethics and integrity, so I always offered everybody the best level of care that I personally could. However, there were many things I didn't have control over in that doctor-patient relationship. 

For example, I didn't have control over how long I had on the schedule to spend with them. Somebody might need 15 minutes, somebody might need 1 hour. But I was booked every 15 minutes, so that meant that I either had to decide to stay with the patient who needed me for another 15 minutes, or I left someone else waiting, which is equally frustrating. I wouldn't book anybody like that if I had the choice, but it wasn't up to me.

“Now that I'm in Direct Care, I can book my patients for as long as I think is necessary. I know all of them personally, I know what their diagnosis is. I can anticipate how long it's going to take; I usually see them for 1-2 hours depending on where they are on their journey.”

New patients get 2 hours blocked out every time, whether they need it or not. That way, if it's quicker than I think, great. I have time to do research, look up studies, visit with them about their kids, or whatever else is necessary. And if it takes the whole 2 hours, nobody's out there waiting for me in the waiting room, tapping their fingers, and being disappointed.

Can you elaborate on the impact of financial considerations on patient care decisions, and how does Direct Care address these concerns?

When I was employed, I didn't have control over the bills. So I might sit there and explain everything wonderfully and recommend that they get an additional scan. But I had no visibility that the scan was going to leave them in debt $5,000 or that the medicine I was about to order was going to do the same. They could look at me and say, "I know you think I need that scan, doctor, but I'm still paying off the scan you ordered 3 months ago that cost $5,000," which I wouldn't order if I knew that.

In Direct Care, I have access to pricing transparency. Now, in Direct Care, I can say, "Thank you for sharing that with me. If you want to get a CT scan at a different facility, I have a cash price for that facility of $250 if you are ready for that." And 9 times out of 10, they choose that option because that is affordable for most people. Then, they don't have to go through the stressul feeling like their cancer could be spreading without them knowing it, or they're disappointing me by not getting the study that I asked for.  On my side, I don't have to feel like I accidentally put them in a terrible financial situation.

How has Direct Care enabled more transparent patient-physician relationships with patients compared to traditional systems?

In Direct Care, the patient-physician relationship is genuine and transparent in a way that I couldn't achieve in employment, and I didn't even realize it until I was in Direct Care. I couldn’t realize it because patients would not share that type of thing with you when they thought you were just part of the bill that they are getting from the hospital. They did not feel comfortable sharing their challenges with me because I was part of the system. Now, they feel completely comfortable sharing all the information with me and oftentimes do it voluntarily.

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