BATTLE GROUND — When Trent Russell joined Delta Direct Care a little more than two weeks ago, he could tell there was something special brewing at the Battle Ground clinic.
The physician assistant has a history working in urgent care and emergency departments, and what attracted him to Delta Direct Care isn’t only what’s currently happening at the Battle Ground clinic, but also what’s in store for the future.
“This place offers what people are yearning for, and that is cost transparency and cost effectiveness, and time and relationships,” Russell said.
Delta Direct Care, which was formerly called Patient Direct Care, has a membership-based platform. It’s called direct primary care, where people pay a monthly fee for access to its primary care services. It’s an innovative approach to health care, and Delta Direct Care is not shy about its goals for expansion and intention to shake up health care in Clark County, said Dianna Kretzschmar, the director of business development, who has a background in social work.
“We’re changing the face of health care one patient at a time,” Kretzschmar said. “We’re becoming disrupters to the way that the health care system has been delivered. That’s an exciting thing to be, even though disrupter seems to have a negative connotation. It doesn’t. It’s exciting to us, because we’re able to get back to the things we always wanted to do in practicing medicine, being a social worker, working with the families and the patients, and putting their care first.”
Delta Direct Care has plans to open a Vancouver location in early 2020. It has also started the Delta Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit that will offer scholarships for primary care at Delta’s clinics to help uninsured and under-insured populations. The Vancouver clinic is slated to be about 2,400 square feet at 2370 E. Third Loop, Vancouver, near the Grand Central retail center.
Dr. Dino Ramzi, who founded Patient Direct Care in 2016 and still oversees the clinic, said he had to take a step back for his clinic to take steps forward. Instead of being a doctor, spokesman, finance person and more, Ramzi has scaled down his involvement in many aspects of the business, which has 10 employees and more than 2,000 members.
Maintaining moral compass
Ramzi hired Kretzschmar, Russell, a data analyst, an operations manager and other positions. When the clinic opened, a Columbian story on the business detailed its modest, old-school aesthetic and approach. Ramzi called his office “a throwback.” While the office has remained the same for the most part, expansion of the clinic into new areas and rebranding can come off as corporate, which Ramzi says is antithetical to his goal.
He cites the new staff additions as a way to make sure Delta Direct keeps its moral compass as it expands.
“Can you grow and maintain the culture and be nimble?,” Ramzi asked. “That’s basically why you need a professional team — and why these folks have come on board.”
Ramzi said he feels like medicine is grinding down doctors and patients. Kretzschmar referenced a 77-year-old Whatcom County man who this month killed his wife and then himself, telling 911 dispatchers he could no longer pay for medical care. Two-thirds of people who file for bankruptcy cite medical issues as a large part of their financial downfall, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health.
Ramzi explained doctors feel the stress, too. According to industry statistics, an estimated 300 to 400 doctors die by suicide each year — a rate that’s more than double that of the general population. Ramzi said doctors can feel like they are not doing a good job, because they want to take care of patients but face so many barriers to health care. Doctors don’t get to spend as much time with their patients, because they are burdened by high volumes of visits and poor indicators of quality of care.
“I think the current system burns people out and you don’t feel good when you get home at the end of the day,” Ramzi said. “I don’t think that has ever happened here. Maybe I’ve been frazzled on a busy day, but I’ve never gone home thinking, ‘When is this going to stop?’ It burns you out, because of the business. It’d be nice to change the business model.”