Like a lot of family physicians, Dr. William Katibah got tired of rushing through his day. Instead of spending time with patients, he felt pushed to get them in and out quickly.
“You’re staring at the computer instead of talking to the patient. I said, ‘There’s a better way of doing this.’ ”
So last December, he opened a new type of medical practice, called Direct Primary Care of the Carolinas.
He charges $25 per visit for patients who pay a monthly membership fee. For that, patients can get same-day appointments if needed or reach Katibah by phone around-the-clock.
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It’s similar to other concierge medical practices that have popped up in Charlotte and around the country. But this one is aimed at a less affluent population. Typical concierge practices charge $1,250 to $3,500 per year. Katibah charges $49 a month, or $588 per year, with discounts for additional family members.
Most concierge practices accept insurance reimbursement as well, but Katibah doesn’t. “So much of traditional medicine is just filling out forms. … Since we don’t have to do that anymore, we’re able to spend more time concentrating on the patient.”
Katibah, who has worked in Charlotte since 1991, sold Mallard Creek Family Physicians to Carolinas HealthCare System in 2008. He then moved to Cabarrus Family Physicians, also owned by Carolinas HealthCare, but chafed at the expectation of seeing 25 to 30 patients a day.
In 2013, Katibah left Carolinas HealthCare and began investigating “direct primary care,” a term adopted by doctors offering a lower-cost, pay-as-you-go model.
Direct care is a good option not only for the uninsured but also for insured patients, Katibah said. He recommends that patients in his practice who do purchase insurance choose a low-premium, high-deductible plan (also called a catastrophic plan) that would cover major medical expenses.
Although monthly fees for Katibah’s practice and charges for office visits cannot be applied toward deductibles, the office charge can be paid from a health savings account. By paying less for an office visit and no extra charge for routine lab tests, Katibah said patients would still save money on primary care.
So far, Katibah has 250 patients, with a goal of 500. For now, he doesn’t even have a nurse or physician assistant, just an office manager. He also doesn’t have a partner to share on-call duty. But he focuses on the advantages – that he can spend extra time with patients without having to schedule a second appointment or worry about billing codes. And he can refer them to any specialist he wants without pressure to stay within the hospital system.
“I practice the kind of medicine I like to practice,” he said.