Medical model makes improvements in health care

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Patient: 'It couldn't be better for us, it's so much more convenient'

A year ago, Dr. Lisa Roark took a risk when she began a new business and embarked on a journey involving a new, uncertain medical model that had the potential to change the quality, affordability and direction of health care.

Her goal was to make comprehensive primary care services available to the general populace in exchange for a monthly membership fee, to help fill in the gaping holes that modern medicine, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmacopeia, and the Affordable Healthcare Act had created.

"The Affordable Care Act has not made insurance more affordable by any means," Roark said.

At first, she wasn't sure if it would work, but to her delight, and that of local residents who are reaping the benefits, it is.

For a single person, the membership costs $100 each month and covers just about everything under the sun a patient would see a doctor for in a typical family-care clinic, ranging from a cold to a broken arm. As a member, patients are also able to contact Roark personally by phone, email or even text. Nor do they have to wait for weeks to get in, or for an hour once they arrive.

"It covers all the things that a typically primary care doctor would do," said Roark, who also sees patients for things such as lacerations, stitches, and broken bones that they might otherwise have to go to an urgent care facility or emergency room for, and pay accordingly.

A spouse is only $50 per month to add, a child, $20, and an entire family, a grand total of $200 per month, prices far below what standard insurance plans charge.

Roark, who previously worked for Cox Health, said the new way of practicing medicine has been very successful.

"It has exceeded my expectations," she said. "We have about twice as many members as I thought we'd have. We're constantly adding new members, and people love the availability, being able to see their doctor the same day, and being able to call me, text me or email me."

"We've had a lot of positive response," said Cindy Roark, aesthetician and registered nurse. "We get new, established patients every day."

Local resident Leslie Smith and her family of five have been patients for the last year.

"It couldn't be better for us," she said. "It's so much more convenient. She can get us in much quicker, and just the fact I can text her with questions, and there's no wait time. I don't sit in the waiting room for 30 minutes or an hour. We do a Christian health care ministry along with Dr. Roark's program to cover the Obama portion of what the government requires. Between the two, we're saving over $1,000 a month compared to what we were doing, and we have much better treatment. Plus, she's great with my kids, and she genuinely cares."

Local residents Robin and Don Kier also utilize Roarks' health care model.

"I retired a year ago, and my husband turned 65 and was on Medicare," Robin Kier said. "We visited with her, and it's been one of the best things we've ever done. Not to mention, she's an absolutely wonderful doctor. We have been more than pleased, and economically with them doing our prescriptions there, it's turned out great for us. She's amazing and so are the people that work with her. It's been eye-opening for us to see what we paid with insurance as opposed to what we pay her without it."

Roark likes that she actually has time to spend with patients.

"When I worked at Cox, I used to see as many patients before lunch as I do the entire day now," she said. "I even have time to chit chat."

Probably her largest segment of patient care is chronic disease management, such as diabetes and blood pressure.

"Health insurance has gotten so expensive, all people can afford is a plan with a high deductible," Roark said. "What if you get a cold, or what if you have high blood pressure, need an antibiotic, or break your arm? Most people can't afford to pay $200 out-of-pocket to see a doctor for basic care. Then what happens is people don't stay on their medication or keep chronic issues like blood pressure controlled, and they wind up having a heart attack. Then they're out of work, and don't feel good, all because they couldn't get primary care. It hurts the entire family, and inflates health care. So that's really where we fit in."

Her patients also have access to at-cost prescriptions.

"What I pay from the manufacturer is what the patient pays," she said. "Most of them are around $3-$4. There are some brand-name scripts that are more expensive, but, still, they average half the price of many pharmacies. That's a huge draw for any patient who is on chronic medication, to pay $3 or $4 instead of $40 or $50. And most labs are only $3-$4. So that's what people are paying for with the membership, is to have that access to all those things."

The clinic also offers spa services, including Botox, fillers, chemical peels, laser hair removal and massages. Roark will also be adding prenatal care, and her clinic is the only one locally that offers DOT physicals.

A model that was once uncertain, and a risk, is now a reality, with more direct care clinics opening.

"In Springfield, there are five or six direct primary clinics that have opened in the last year," Roark said. "So, physicians are looking for other options, and a lot of that has to do with [the Affordable Care Act] and high deductible insurance, and being able to access primary care because insurance doesn't cover that anymore. When we have this big gap, we have to make changes to meet the needs of our community, and the needs of our family."

Roark said she feels the new model, face, of health care, makes her a better physician, and parent.

"I feel like I'm a better doctor now because I have more time to spend with my patients," she said. "And I have time to look up prescription assistance, or research health systems to get the best deal on a test. I also have time to be involved in the community, schools, Rotary, and things I've never gotten to do before. Now, I can be a great doctor, and a great mom. It's basically taking out all the obstacles and getting pack to the patient and the doctor."

For more information, people may contact the clinic at 417-847-1111 or by email at roarkfamilyhealth@gmail.com.

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