Patients and Physicians Are Choosing Consumer-Friendly ‘Decentralized Care’ Instead of Hospital Visits
Samaritan Members Are Embracing This Trend toward Price Transparency, Walk-In Clinics, Telemedicine
July 29, 2020
PEORIA, Ill. — In spite of the strain on the economy and health care system from COVID-19, health care providers from surgeons to drug stores are innovating to serve patients — such as members of Samaritan Ministries International (samaritanministries.org) — by treating them as consumers who value quality care at reasonable prices.
Walgreens and VillageMD have partnered to open 3,300-square-foot primary-care centers in 500 to 700 drugstores over five years to offer annual check-ups, walk-in appointments and other services. Four-person physician-led teams will treat up to 120 patients per day at each center.
The care model is the latest innovation of a trend called decentralized care, in which patients are obtaining treatment through telehealth services and at outpatient surgery centers and clinics instead of visiting hospitals, according to a Healthline.com article featured in the July newsletter published by Samaritan Ministries International, a leading health care sharing ministry.
Physician and Samaritan member Chris Vaughn, owner of the free-market medical facility Freedom Orthopedic in Toccoa, Georgia, says his decentralized, direct-pay model allows him to give patients the attention they need — and crave.
“Medically, we are able to care for patients better by being more flexible,” Vaughn said. “When there is a big medical or financial decision, we can discuss it and see if that is what they want to do. It allows me to use the decision-making that I was trained to do after discussing options with the patient. This is without waiting for a third-party non-medical person inserting themselves into our physician-patient relationship. All this adds up to better care for the patients.”
Innovative doctors like Vaughn have been experimenting for the past decade with ways to place patient satisfaction at the center of their practice models — starting with price transparency. For example, the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, founded and operated by Dr. Keith Smith and partners, performs 600 to 700 surgeries per month at prices posted on their website.
Taking cues from Smith’s model, Freedom Orthopedic posts transparent prices online — offering high-quality care in many cases for less than 50 percent of the cost compared to other facilities.
“Freedom has been able to help patients financially in multiple ways, first by offering pricing that is visible online,” Vaughn said. “The cost to ‘get in the door’ is usually far less than half of most orthopedic offices. If somebody needs a cast or injection, it is included in that visit.”
Because Samaritan members — including Vaughn — pay their own health care bills directly, it behooves them to find out the cost of care before purchasing it.
“If patients want to check our costs with those that other orthopedic surgeons are offering, they can go to our website,” Vaughn said. “If it helps them negotiate better with their orthopedic surgeons that they are used to seeing, I am happy for them.
“Our surgical pricing helps them to know what their total costs are going to be, which is very difficult for most patients to determine what their cost will be including the surgery, facility and anesthesia,” Vaughn continued.
Many patients obtain health care services without asking the price, only to be surprised — and potentially crushed — weeks later when they are billed. Samaritan routinely reminds members that when they ask health care providers the cost of a service before obtaining care, they are making a reasonable request.
Samaritan rewards members for seeking the best value when choosing a provider, saving all members money. Members can earn $250 when they demonstrate they obtained care from a “fair-price facility” rated by HealthcareBluebook.com.
Decentralization carries spiritual benefits as well. For example, being uncoupled from a hospital system gives Vaughn more flexibility to share the Gospel.
“I have the freedom to address spiritual needs and care for the whole patient,” Vaughn said.
Through this effective, God-honoring ministry, more than 82,000 households with over a quarter of a million Samaritan Ministries members are sharing approximately $30 million in health care needs person to person each month. In fact, over the past 25 years, Samaritan Ministries members have shared more than $1.8 billion in health care needs.
To interview a representative from Samaritan Ministries International, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Patrick Benner, 610.584.1096, ext. 104, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.