SPARK MD:

May 2, 2018

You mean there’s another way to deliver medical care?

Norris Krueger

“Healthcare is a mess of unintended consequences” – the first words I heard from local family physician and healthcare innovator, Dr. Julie Gunther (www.sparkmd.com). To her, so much of what ails our healthcare system is driven by the need to serve billing and coding and not humans.

Imagine a patient in Gem County with a small medical issue, small but important, that needs a doctor. Did you think house calls were a thing of the past? Physicians like Dr. Gunther are bringing back house calls and much more in their modern model of old-fashioned doctoring.

They do this through direct primary care (DPC). As a business model, DPC is a flat-rate, membership-based relationship between you and your doctor. For $50-$100/month (the national average is $77/month/adult), you get all of your basic medical care, wellness care, urgent care, minor surgical care, and more. Patients have access to wholesale prices on medications, imaging and labs, often up to 80% off of ‘insurance pricing.’ Imagine getting prescriptions and devices at cost. Imagine paying a doctor $10/month to take care of your child. Imagine this in… Boise?

Of late, I’ve been learning far more than I wanted to know about the broken business of healthcare. To be honest, I’d resigned myself to a world of byzantine insurance forms, the likelihood of dropping money at a doc-in-the-box, or dropping a LOT of money at the ER.

I knew there were medical professionals who had opted out of the madness but that’s not for me, right? Oops. Dr. Gunther walked me through a most intriguing “Option 2.” She offered the analogy of car insurance: What if we insured our cars the way we insured ourselves? What if insurance paid for oil changes, stains on the seats….all with a huge deductible? Trips out of town would require a prior-authorization and your mechanic would have to charge triple to document, code, and bill for everything he did. This is the challenge of our healthcare system. We bill insurance for everything. And it makes the simple things catastrophically complex and expensive.

Julie Gunther, MD, FAAFP was a Boise High grad who went off to Harvard, then Vanderbilt, then UW School of Medicine. She is Board Certified, a Fellow in Family Medicine and has all the certifications that traditional physicians work hard to have. In 2013, she joined a band of doctors with a good cause.

Dr. Julie is a national voice for healthcare transformation as is a part of more than 800 ‘direct primary care physicians’ with about 780 physician-owned direct primary care clinics nationally – sparkMD was number 142. And… you’ll never guess who Vice President of the Direct Primary Care Alliance!  Dr. Julie.

Dr. Julie opened sparkMD in downtown Boise in early in 2014. She continues to build her clinic with her rockstar (Dr. Julie’s word) Nurse Practitioner, Ms. Kenon Kildew and is looking to expand offerings, especially in aesthetics and elective procedures.

Yes, you need to have catastrophic health care coverage for the cancers, trauma, emergencies, all the unexpected ‘collisions’ of life. At sparkMD the routine health events – high blood pressure, cutting yourself while slicing an avocado, an ankle sprain all ending up to about $2/day—once freed from coding, billing, and the top-heavy administrative demands of big business healthcare. Moreover, sparkMD primary care works well with high deductible health plans, HSA’s, cost-sharing plans and for anyone who wants straightforward pricing and straight-forward, simplified old-fashioned primary care.
Imagine feeling like you have a doctor in your family. You can.