News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Bringing a patient-centered model to health care

Dr. Sing-Wei Ho moved to Central Oregon 10 years ago after residency training in Colorado. She was offered a job with St. Charles in Redmond, so she and her husband headed farther west. She lives with her young family in Tumalo. Along with her children and husband, they've created a small farm with livestock and flora. When she's not taking care of her patients, she and her family enjoy hiking, skating, cooking, dancing, singing, and practicing sustainable living.

"We like the sunshine. My husband and I both came from the Midwest. I'm from Minnesota and he's from Nebraska. The weather was a huge reason why we left the Midwest. We still visit frequently for family and friends, but don't miss the harsh winters and humid summers," said Ho.

After years of experience as a primary care physician, Ho didn't like how much time she was spending on paper and computer work, and not with her patients or family. She investigated better ways to care for her patients and chose a direct primary care (DPC) model, which offers a full range of primary care and care coordination services for a low, flat monthly membership fee. DPC doctors do not bill insurance and are not constrained to a corporate structure. The DPC model is patient-centered, giving folks access to a caring doctor who has the time to spend with them. In short, DPC eliminates third-party interference.

"I'm reaching out to people in Sisters because I think there are fewer health care resources available to these folks than in surrounding larger communities," said Ho from her clinic, Tumalo Family Medicine in Bend. "The ones that are available tend to belong to big health systems. I love giving people another option. I have a more holistic approach and like to push what I call lifestyle medicine.

"So many folks in Sisters want to be healthy and live an active lifestyle. I can help them reach or maintain these goals. Direct primary care is also the perfect model for such goals due to its flexibility, as it takes more time to work on improving lifestyle than it does to take medication. Folks can come see me in person, call or text me, or have a video chat. My patients don't always have to leave home to get my care. Health care doesn't have to be rigid and confined to in-person, 20-minute visits that require all kinds of paperwork; it can be an in-person exam followed by conversations via phone calls or text message. I'm able to manage my patients' care progressively and gently through all these different modalities," said Ho.

At her DPC clinic, Ho can have deeper relationships with patients in a more relaxed setting.

"I get to know my patients and they get to know me," she said. " We embark on a health care journey together. At Tumalo Family Medicine, I promote health beyond clinic-based care. This is more of an old-style form of medicine where you know the doctor and the staff, and they know you and your family, and big business doesn't come in between that. Now, it's often such a fast-paced turnover at most clinics, which has its place. However, I find people are looking for a more personal feel in their health care."

Ho invites people interested in her practice to have a free, meet-and-greet appointment.

"Come in and talk, ask questions, and tell me what you're looking for," she said. "We'll talk about my practice and what to expect. Then you can decide if we're a good fit."

A big part of what primary care doctors do is manage their patients' health issues, and keep an eye on what other specialists are doing for them.

"This is so we have the big picture of what's going on for you. We can help keep track of what kind of ongoing screening and care you should be having, and we're the gatekeepers for that information. As with any other clinic, specialists are encouraged to send me their progress notes and results, so we can follow along and help with your specialty treatment," said Ho.

Ho hopes people understand why she chose a DPC model.

"Working in a big-business health care model overloaded me over time. When big businesses are more focused on making money and meeting quotas, it's not good for anyone. I left to be healthier, give my family more time, and because my patients deserved more. With the direct primary care model, there is less paperwork and button pushing, and more time for direct interactions. This time can then be spent keeping people healthy and helping them achieve their goals. This model gives me flexibility to do everything I can for my patients. It allows me to get back to the reason I went into medicine, which is to have relationships with people.... In the current health care system, there's no time for that. Hopefully, this model will also allow people to use health care more because it can take away that hesitation to contact your provider even just to ask questions."

Tumalo Family Medicine is located in the Jamison Building at 131 NW Hawthorne Ave., Suite 101, in Bend. Information about monthly fees are on the website, https://tumalo, or call 541-283-0914.


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