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Direct Primary Care offers an affordable alternative to health care

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Imagine a health care experience where you can text your doctors, spend an hour with them during unlimited monthly appointments, and feel like they personally know you and your family-- all for an affordable flat-rate fee.

It sounds too good to be true, but such a health care center is opening in Huntsville next week.

Kendra Currie is a cancer patient and single mom to three active kids. Symptoms and accidents can come fast, and access to quick health care is essential.

"She can see me almost immediately, you know, same day, most definitely," Currie said.

She's talking about her doctor, whom she can call and text, and make same-day appointments with. But that's not what Currie's health care was always like.

"I would have to call down to the cancer center, and they'd have to call me in something without even seeing me, or I'd drive an hour and 15 minutes to see them," Currie explained.

Instead of traditional insurance, Currie opted for something called Direct Primary Care. It's like a membership to a doctor's office-- you pay a monthly flat-rate fee for unlimited visits and direct access to your doctor.

"Instead of billing your insurance, or taking a copay, we do a small monthly membership fee," said Dr. Morgan Goss, founder of Huntsville Dove Family Health location.

Membership rates vary according to area, usually between $50 - $70 per month for adults.  Membership includes direct access to your doctor via phone appointments, e-mails, video chats, and text as well as standard in-office appointments.  The office will work with local companies to provide labs and imaging at a very affordable rate.  Most medication can be offered to patients at wholesale prices.

"If you need me on a Saturday, I'm going to answer your texts on a Saturday," Dr. Goss said. "And we try to save you money on your labs, your imaging, your medications."

Direct Primary Care also focuses on the patient-doctor relationship. In a traditional model, a doctor might see 50 patients a day. Here at Dove Family Health, Dr. Goss might see 15, depending on the season.

"Traditional offices are scheduling patients every 10-15 minutes," explained Crystal Gaskins, a nurse practitioner in the office. "We schedule our patients for 30-minute to one-hour visits, allowing our providers the time needed to get to know their patients. This is possible due to the low provider-to-patient ratio of Direct Primary Care offices. "

Right now only five direct primary care offices are in the entire state. Three in north Alabama: Rainsville, Fort Payne, and Huntsville. Each office has a cap for how many patients it will accept.

The Huntsville location of Dove Family Health will start seeing patients next week.