Monday, June 12, 2017

HCSI Interview with Dr. Robert Steves and Jennifer Steves of The Town Doctor Episode: 21

In this show, Lance King of Healthcare Compliance Solutions Inc ( interviewed Dr. Robert Steves and Jennifer Steves of The Town Doctor  ( about direct primary care.

Robert and Jennifer Steves have been married for almost 20 years and have 7 children. Besides homeschooling their children, they stay busy running a medical practice together.  Please see the Bio section at the end of the show notes for more information about their degrees and experience.

The Town Doctor
How it Began
Robert (Bob) got laid off a year ago from working as a doctor in a local hospital and advocated for better patient care. He saw that the doctor patient relationship was deteriorating in the United States. Patients get about 7 minutes of a primary care physician's time. It is not fair for the patient or the physician in that situation because it's hard to give high quality care with that short amount of time. Bob and Jennifer talked about the idea of direct primary care but were too nervous to actually do it until Bob was laid off. Jennifer immediately said “Let's do this” the day he was let go.
They built The Town Doctor together. They decided that it was the perfect opportunity to create a practice where they could care for patients the way they had always dreamed of. With direct primary care, insurance companies and 3rd party payers are cut out. Patients get 45 minute appointments. Bob used to see 35-45 patients and day; now he sees 6-8 patients in the same amount of time. Because they are released from insurance regulations/requirements, they are free to avoid pre-authorizations and can negotiate with labs and other service providers to pass on savings to patient, and can treat patients over the phone, text, or email. He gets to know his  patients, their families, and their jobs. Bob has learned about patient needs and situations that he never realized before in his former experience. He has been able to give higher quality care that focuses on well-being through the direct primary care model.

Covering Costs
The Steves are often asked about the practice's ability to cover costs since the patient volume is much lower than with a traditional PCP model. They tell people that they can definitely make money—they have 7 children to take care of! Overhead is cut by 80 percent in a direct primary care model because they don't work with insurance companies. Not only does this save time on paperwork, it also eliminates many hoops a doctor has to jump through to give care. Additionally, the have negotiated deals with services such as X-rays and lab work and pass the 90 percent savings on to their patients. For example, at his previous practice, a patient would have been charged $2200 for blood work that The Town Doctor charges $20. Bob says that his model is about more than just he money, though. He is willing to take a bit of a pay cut to enjoy a better quality of life, not just at work but also with his family. A lot of colleagues said it was professional suicide, but they all tell him that they would love to work his way. He is at peace with the way he does things because he knows it's right.

Biggest challenge
The biggest challenge the Steves have at The Town Doctor is educating patients on how direct primary care works. Bob is thankful to have a great team that help with the details. He had a  vision and knows it took many people working together to realize his dream of The Town Doctor. They work well with and complement each other. Bob says his wife has become an industry leader in direct primary care. Nurse Amy has been with him since he was a resident and she has been a huge help in the clinical side of things. Jennifer's mom works in the office, as well so it's been a family affair. Bob said that going against the grain of American medicine was difficult at first, but they trusted that God would show them the next step as they went. He remembered one of his professors in medical school said, “If you're taking care of your patients, you're going to be successful.” He has found that statement to be true. 

Advice for Doctors Looking to Make a Change to Direct Primary Care
The Steves want to remind doctors who are becoming disenchanted with the current model of medicine that you aren't stuck. He believes that doctors have ability to create and do something different. Doctors need to step out as a group and say, “Enough is enough.” Bob speaks to third-year medical students and tells them to think about the things that could be different in family practice. Bob and Jennifer will gladly take calls and give advice to doctors looking to get started in changing to a direct primary care model for their practices.  The Town Doctor office number is 615-547-6930. Their website is

Personal Habits of Success
Bob says that watching his father was greatly influential in his life. His dad was a blue-collar worker, plowing snow to provide for his family. They were a  poor family, but his father was committed and had an exceptional work ethic. Bob learned, “No matter what your position, give it your all.” People will see that drive and it will be rewarded.
Jennifer says that her determination has served her well over the years. They were 19 and 20 when they got married and they had kids early, while Bob was in medical school. People told them they were crazy, but they made things work. They chose to home-school their children, and were different in many cultural ways.  When told, “You can't do that!” Jennifer responded with, “Watch us!” That attitude helped her when starting the new practice. It was not easy and required many hours and lots of determination. Now she is able to see the rewards—freedom. The Town Doctor does what's best for patients instead of insurance companies. She and Bob have the freedom to enjoy time with family.

Bob says, “Keeping the patient first brings its own success.” He focuses on building things that surround the patient, like wellness programs, to promote the health and well-being of the patient. These ancillary services bring more money to the practice, but that's not his primary focus. He went into medicine for the relationships. He, doesn't want to sell this product or that product. He wants to grow the direct-primary-care-style of practice because it provides higher quality of care for patients and better quality of life for doctors. In fact, most of his patients have insurance but choose to see him because of the service they are given.
Jennifer says that being a practice entrepreneur who utilizes the direct-primary-care-model allows her and her husband to bring integrity to the forefront of their practice. She has the freedom to show a vendor the door who does not act in integrity. Her favorite thing about being an entrepreneur is that they get to create the vision they have for medicine in their very own family care practice.

Parting Advice
“When you feel something in your soul, don't ignore that. Its something that's been placed there for you to pay attention to. Write it down. Some people have dreams, some people will beat their dreams into submission. Chase down your dreams.”-Bob
“It's okay to be different...Amazing things can happen.”-Jennifer

Bio for Dr. Robert Steves and Jennifer Steves of The Town Doctor
Dr. Robert (Bob) Steves
Dr. Robert Steves obtained a Bachelor of Science degree, Cum Laude, in multiple sciences from Lemoyne College in 2001. He graduated with a Medical Degree, Cum Laude, from St. George’s University in Bayshore, N.Y. in 2006, and completed the Family Practice Residency Program at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center in 2009. He is highly skilled, professional and compassionate. He works continuously to update his medical knowledge. His commitment to preventative care extends far beyond the walls of his practice, educating people on the benefits of wellness and prevention at every opportunity. Dr. Steves’ experience studying medicine in a 3rd World country, the urban Detroit area, the suburbs of Syracuse, and most recently the growing Middle Tennessee area has provided him a depth of knowledge and broadened his experience in acute and preventative care. Over nearly 20 years, he has participated directly in all areas of family practice medicine, including administrative, insurance, and in the laboratory, which has enabled him to have a well-rounded approach to medical and disease management. Extremely articulate, his natural teaching ability, and experience commands an audience when educating and presenting to patients, as well as the health care team.

Jennifer Steves
Jennifer Steves is both a Registered Nurse and a health and wellness professional with a broad level of experience both clinically & administratively in the health care industry. She works to educate healthcare consumers, and connects individuals and employers with The Town Doctor™, Direct Primary Care; an improved and cost-effective healthcare solution. A registered nurse & visionary leader she utilizes her experience from her years in the hospital & clinic turning strategy into operational success through planning and directing operational policies and objectives. Responsible for establishing and overseeing standards, executing overall vision, implementation of marketing strategy, developing & maintaining relationships with key executives, and working with staff to ensure that processes, training, and quality of services reflect the high-quality standards and performance expected. She reviews data-based reports and overviews that can be acted upon to both improve and ensure the business’ top efficiency and performance. Together, their knowledge has positioned them as an industry leader in Direct Primary Care where they specialize in clinical & consultative services for employers, health care organizations, brokers, insurance companies, and health care providers that positively is impacting families, businesses - and their employees by providing BETTER ACCESS, BETTER CARE, & BETTER HEALTH.

Thank You!
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