LEXINGTON, Ky. - People pay monthly subscriptions for things like Netflix and gym memberships. Now, more Kentuckians are paying monthly fees for doctors visits. 

Direct primary care (DPC) is an alternative to the traditional healthcare model. With a flat monthly fee, patients have all of their primary care services covered. There is no fee-for-service payments. There is no third party billing. With that membership fee, patients get same-day or next-day visits, as well as 24/7 communciation over the phone.

Dr. Erin Cooper spent years working in primary care through a hospital setting. She started to grow increasingly frustrated by the short amount of time alloted for each patient.

“Pretty soon you are expected to see 20 to 25 patients a day and you just don’t have enough time to really address their needs in those short little visits. For us, it was just about getting back to being doctors again and being able to take care of people,” Dr. Erin Cooper said.

She started Olive Health Direct Primary Care in Lexington last August to provide an alternative to the traditional insurance-based healthcare system. Soon after, her husband, Dr. Geoff Cooper, joined the practice.

Direct Primary Care Coalition reports there are approximately 1,088 direct primary care practices across the United States. 16 of those reported practices are in Kentucky. You can check out this interactive map the Direct Primary Care Colation put together to see if there is a direct primary care office near you.

“It’s a small but mighty minority of doctors, but it is gaining traction and it’s really being driven by patient desire for better care," Dr. Geoff Cooper said.

Direct primary care doctors boast a more personal relationship with less wait times. By cutting out the insurance middle man, it can actually drive down healthcare costs.

“Health insurance year after year is more and more expensive. Deductibles are becoming higher. People are having to pay a lot per month just to have their health insurance, but then their deductibles are so high that they are really paying out-of-pocket for their everyday healthcare needs because you pay for everything until you hit that deductible,” Dr. Erin Cooper said.

The Coopers say direct primary care could work for anyone, but it is especially appealing to people with complex medical needs who could use more time with a doctor. It is also an option for small businesses owners who cannot afford healthcare coverage for employees. 

Direct primary care is often mistaken for concierge medicine, but there are difference between the two. While both are membership-based health models, concierge medicine does still bill insurance.