Direct-pay doc an idea whose time has come
I spend a lot of time in doctors' offices, more in the past year than in my whole previous lifetime, thanks to a list of unforeseen health problems for both myself and my wife. All that time smelling disinfectant and reading old magazines is coloring my opinion a bit on how health care ought to work.
Every time I go to another neurologist, radiologist, surgeon or nuclear physicist (who knew I'd spend an hour with one of those?) I repeat the same refrain in my head: I can not imagine going through this without good insurance. It's hard enough to be sick without having to worry whether someone will treat you and how much it will cost. Unfortunately, there are too many people who have just that problem. And while you're obviously better off with good insurance for major issues, when it comes to everyday problems, how nice would it be to bypass the insurance problem altogether?
That's why I like what Dr. Ravin Talati is doing in Duluth with his new practice. His a la carte/membership club approach takes the insurance company out of the equation -- which keeps costs down -- and allows more time for the doctor to spend with the patient, which is perhaps my biggest complaint. I imagine the rest of you are like me -- you get sick (pardon the pun) of feeling like you're ordering on game day at The Varsity when you're trying to talk to the doctor.
Now we have a little insight as to why, courtesy of Dr. Talati:
"It's an unwritten rule, seven and a half minutes per patient," he said in a story in Thursday's Daily Post. "There's only so much you can do in seven and a half minutes. We wanted to get away from the idea of you waiting in the waiting room for two hours, and then seeing the doctor for five minutes, or seeing a (physician's assistant) or nurse practitioner. When you go to a doctor's office, I feel like you should see a physician."
Amen. I want to talk to the doctor. Not his assistant. Not his nurse. In my case, after listening to several people with fewer degrees and less training than the surgeon give me conflicting opinions on something as serious as my brain, I decided it was no longer acceptable. Now, I only have in-depth discussions with people with M.D. after their name. That's how it ought to be when you go to the doctor's office, and Dr. Talati gets that.
He also understands that a lot of ailments and diseases -- like diabetes -- can be treated without making it overly complicated. He told our reporter: "I wanted to change that. I want to sit down and treat you, because we can. We're MDs. We're capable of treating diabetes. I don't need to throw you to a referral."
He charges $35 per month and $15 per visit. Those are bargain prices for quality time with a physician. Dr. Talati still recommends having insurance for catastrophes, but for everyday health needs, it's hard to argue with his business and care model.
Here's hoping that model rubs off on a few others in the profession.
Email Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/natemccullough.