Smiling woman sitting in chairI liked my doctor, I really did. But after another one of our typical, lightning-fast visits where I came in, waited for two hours and then saw her for less than 10 minutes, I ended with a referral to a specialist. Another doctor. That specialist saw me for an equally brief visit, determined my symptoms weren’t the product of any diagnosis in his field and referred me to another specialist.


I originally went in to see my doctor because I was nervous about a symptom, a numbness in my hands that wasn’t there before. I had been tracking it, thinking about it, worrying about it, dreading so many frightening possibilities, that I finally caved and made an appointment.


Obviously, my doctor wouldn’t have time to hear about how scared I was. I knew I had to come with calculated information and tell her the important stuff. But I hated that feeling—waiting for hours with mental index cards, ready with my elevator pitch of symptoms to see how much of her attention I could capture in the few minutes we were together.


After both specialists and no answers, I hadn’t even knocked out half of my deductible. I had to explore other options before trying a third specialist. I felt like something had been lost in translation, like I hadn’t even explained the problem properly to begin with.


My mother complained that doctors today lack curiosity. My brother perpetually sent me links to neurological disorders he thought I might have. It wasn’t until a friend mentioned her Direct Primary Care clinic that I found a better path to action.


I did my homework and learned about DPC, the medical payment model where doctors arrange periodic payments from clients instead of navigating the insurance sphere. The idea of starting from the ground up with a new doctor appealed to me, and DPC wasn’t going to break the bank, so I made an appointment.


My appointment time was the actual time the doctor was able to see me. A patient at the check-out desk nodded approvingly at my surprise as they called my name, and then said, “Yeah, that’s how she rolls.”


Following the nurse back to an examination room, I realized that I hadn’t prepared my mental bullet points of symptoms and triggers and miscellaneous observations, and I started to panic. How was I going to convey what I needed to, and give the doctor every nugget of information to figure out what was wrong with me?


My panic was the product of every experience I’d had leading up to it. But there was no need for it at all. What I discovered was one of the greatest advantages to DPC: without the pressure to double book and maintain thousands of patients, I didn’t have to speak in bullet points. I started with the symptom, when it started and what seemed to aggravate it. I explained the first doctor visit, the first specialist, and the second, and the referral to the third. And then the doctor asked me more questions. There was no rush.


By spending more time in diagnosis and developing a real relationship with my new doctor, we were able to find the circulation problem behind the numbness in my hands. In the old days, I might have gotten a penny for my thoughts when I went to the doctor to beat out bullet points; but I needed a doctor’s consultation and attention. I needed a doctor who can put in their whole two cents’ worth. That’s the exchange I need from my provider, and that’s the return I need on my investment in my health.


With great satisfaction and trust, I was converted that day into a life-long DPC client.