Between the seemingly never-ending battle with insurance companies and attempting to survive among government mandates, it is no wonder primary care physicians have been gravitating towards direct primary care (DPC).
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However, while the idea of direct payments between patients and physicians seems like a blessing among the healthcare chaos, the recent closures of two leading DPC businesses have put a question mark on the movement’s future.
Seen as the pioneer of DPC, Qliance Medical Management of Seattle, Washington, closed its doors in mid-May and plans to officially shut down June 15 after a decade of providing care through monthly membership.
Turntable Health in Las Vegas, Nevada, whose founder and CEO is Zubin Damania, MD—also known as the rapper ZDoggMD—closed in January.
“Qliance has been the poster child for DPC,” says Robert Berenson, MD, of the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. “Everyone was very positive of them. If that one can’t make it … it suggests maybe the business model (of DPC) is flawed.”
What went wrong?
The inability to secure long-term funding was what drove Qliance to shut its doors, says Erika Bliss, MD, co-founder and CEO of the Seattle business.
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“We (had been) working on developing a more advanced primary care model under direct primary care, bringing everything all together to make sure all the pieces were together,” she told Medical Economics. “From all the virtual services, patient management, urgent care, office space and in-person care. It all has to be connected.”
But to further expand their DPC model, loans and contracts were needed and ultimately did not happen.
“We tried to figure out if we could scale back enough to hold tight until the contracts went through, but it didn’t work out,” Bliss says.
Adding insult to injury, Bliss said Qliance had to immediately shut down all operations in May due to a debt consolidator illegally withdrawing nearly $200,000 from the company’s account.