Photo by Michael Barrett
Eight years ago, Micah Walker made a risky career change: starting medical school at the age of thirty with a wife, two children and one on the way. Now, with his residency nearly complete and a total of four children, Dr. Walker has embarked on another unusual career path by opening a clinic vastly different from what is seen in the healthcare industry
NewCare MD, which opened on January third of this year, is the first direct primary care clinic in central Mississippi. Direct primary care is a division of concierge medicine, a growing medical model that cuts out government and insurance middlemen to provide care to patients for a monthly membership fee.
“I went into medicine to take care of people,” says Dr. Walker. “Direct primary care lived up to my values. The patient is the customer and that’s who we serve.”
Dr. Walker was joined by his wife Heather Walker, the nurse at NewCare MD, Dr. John Vanderloo and COO Amy Hervey to make the dream of “modern medicine meeting old- fashioned compassion” a reality.
NewCare MD’s model guarantees unlimited same or next-day visits by capping the number of patients per
physician at about a third of the typical number for traditional practices. The clinic’s patient benefits include increased appointment time with their physician, visiting the clinic as often as needed with no office copay or deductible, access to at-cost pricing on medications, lab services and imaging, annual wellness exams, house calls when appropriate and the option to text their physician if they don’t have time for a visit. Care plans range from $30 a month for individuals under the age of 18 to $180 for families of six. One-time visits are also available, as well as tours of the facility for those considering joining.
NewCare MD may not be the right fit for everyone’s needs, but clients of this concierge clinic come from all walks of life, not just the upper class as one might expect. For example, many independent business owners who aren’t able to afford decent insurance plans but don’t qualify for Medicare have found NewCare MD to be right for them.
“Most of our patients work on the golf course as opposed to living or playing on it,” says Amy. “Yes, some patients join simply to have access to a doctor on retainer. However, most of our patients join because they know we can take care of about ninety percent of their medical needs while paying only a fraction of market rates.”
Rescuing patients from illnesses and financial woes isn’t NewCare MD’s only mission. A recent joint study by the AMA and Mayo Clinic found that family practitioners experience some of the highest burnout rates in medicine, most likely due to frustrating insurance requirements and a constant stream of patients. The clinic staff feels they are also called to “rescue physicians” from this way of working.
The chance to work more closely with fewer patients attracted Dr. John Vanderloo, NewCare MD’s full-time physician, to join the clinic after he felt burnt out as a faculty member of family medicine at UMMC.
“For every hour with a patient, there were two hours of computer work,” says Dr. Vanderloo. “NewCare has been so refreshing. Every clinic we open saves a doctor from burnout.”
NewCare MD plans to expand in the tri-county area by the end of the year and hopes to apply its method of membership payment to other areas of healthcare.
For now, patients can easily sign up on NewCare MD’s website, www.newcaremd.com or visit the clinic in Madison. “We’re in the middle of growing an enterprise,” Dr. Walker says. “I think this is the best way to receive care. It’s more than a transaction; it’s a relationship.”