Direct Primary Care & FitBits: Life with AtlasMD

Josh Umbehr, MD, Founder of AtlasMD

Josh Umbehr, MD, Founder of AtlasMD

You don’t have car insurance for gasoline. Why have health insurance for family medicine?

There are a number of innovations and care delivery models happening all across the US. What are physicians doing? What are they doing? What’s working? AtlasMD is a direct primary care provider in Wichita, Kansas that has been in operation for the last 5 years. Most recently, they’ve announced they’re they’re also building a new electronic medical record (EMR) to really optimize the direct primary care experience.

We’re also excited that two of AtlasMD’s physicians, Drs. Josh Umbehr and Doug Nunamaker, are Celebrity Judges in our Primary Care Innovation Challenge (#PCC14), and will be sharing their knowledge and expertise with our applicants. We caught up with Dr. Umbehr, Founder of AtlasMD and family medicine physician, to learn more about what AtlasMD is all about.

Membership Fees

AtlasMD Membership Fees

A lot of primary care physicians are very frustrated right now. What do you think are the biggest concerns? 

Indeed, physicians are burning out in record numbers right now.  They are dealing with an ever increasing amount of red tape, insurance/gov’t interference and decreasing reimbursement.  They are concerned about the unpredictable way that the healthcare landscape is changing.  Ultimately, I believe that most are concerned with how they’ll be able to stay financially sound to continue providing care.  Direct Primary Care (DPC) models like ours offer a sustainable alternative.

What do you think we can do to inspire change? 

Give them hope.

How do you think we can empower students and residents to go into primary care? And perhaps affect change in primary care?

Direct care is medicine the way they promised us it would be.  Every young idealistic medical student goes into medicine because they want to be able to connect with patients and make a real difference.  Somewhere along the way, they burn out emotionally and steer away from primary care because of the stress and workload.  However, in a DPC model they are able to make care affordable for everyone and really spend time with their patients.  It is a way to practice medicine that is personally and professionally gratifying without the stress of bureaucracy interfering.  As students and residents learn that there’s a better way, they are gravitating to it in record numbers.

What inspired you to start Atlas MD?

Our patients.  You can see in my personal statement for residency that I wanted to fight for the experience of my patients. We saw too many patients who were dissatisfied with their healthcare and too many physicians burning out under the insurance model. Logically, we’re just using insurance in the wrong way.  You don’t have car insurance for gasoline, why have health insurance for family medicine.  Ironically, when you remove red tape and barriers to care, medicine actually becomes much more affordable.

Insurance Question

AtlasMD Insurance Question

How is the Atlas MD model of direct primary care different from other models?

It has been said that if you’ve seen one DPC model, then you’ve seen one DPC model.  So there’s no one standard model to compare DPC to. However, I think what makes AtlasMD unique is its design to create a high value at a very low cost.  We set out to design a model that would help to build and maintain the highest levels of trust between the patient and the doctor.  Features like unlimited visits and no copays and all office procedures for free really help the patients to know that we have their best interest at heart.  However, the wholesale medicines and lab tests for up to 95% savings is perhaps the shining example of how we go the extra mile.  Saving our patients hundreds of dollars per year (or even per month) on medicines and labs demonstrates that we value their trust and health over profits.

If a patient can email me a picture of a rash, it can save them a visit or prompt one to be done sooner.

AtlasMD EMR

I love that you’re creating an electronic medical record (EMR) that incorporates current social media and fitness applications into the patient’s history. Can you tell us more about how this works? Why did you build this feature? Why do you think it’s important? How useful has it been? How do patients feel about it?

Thanks, its been an exciting opportunity to build a solution that truly helps us take better care of our patients.  Leo Babauta said, “Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.”  I think we’ve taken that approach with our clinic model and our EMR.  We needed an EMR that didn’t distract from patient care (like most) but rather complimented the physician patient relationship.  And any good relationship lives or dies on the ability to communicate well.  But the current system puts too many artificial barriers between the patients and the doctors.  To truly connect with our patients we required a new type of platform that would integrate all sources  of communication or information from our patients.  If a patient can email me a picture of a rash, it can save them a visit or prompt one to be done sooner.  The ability to track a patient’s exercise, weight and sleep patterns by integrating with their fitbit or mobile app gives us a whole new layer of data to improve outcomes.  Thankfully, our patients have responded with overwhelming approval because they see it as a new tool to help them achieve their goals.

The AtlasMD EMR has Human API integration. Expanding our fitness tracking capabilities, Atlas.md has added support for the Human API, which is a gateway to most of the fitness devices and applications available on the market. We now support devices from Jawbone, Nike, iHealth and Withings as well as applications such as RunKeeper, Moves App and DailyMile.

Are you doing something innovative in primary care? Tell us! Join our GRAND Primary Care Challenge, co-hosted by The Harvard Medical School Center for Primary Care, The American College of Physicians, Primary Care Progress, The American Resident Project, The Society of Teachers of Family Medicine, Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, in-Training, Costs of Care, and the Rhode Island, Mississippi, and Maryland Academy of Family Physicians! Click here to learn more.

Jennifer M. Joe, MD

Jennifer M. Joe, MD

My passion is healthcare optimization, whether that is with innovation, making scientific discoveries, or improving delivery. I love bringing people and ideas together and making projects work. With this, medicine exists to improve lives, and I will strive to always help patients and those around me.
Jennifer M. Joe, MD

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