by Mike Knaak
A Sartell doctor is trying to trail-blaze a new model for health care by actually taking a few steps backward.
Dr. Cody W. Wendlandt owns Sartell Family Medicine, Minnesota’s only pure direct patient care clinic. Wendlandt is upsetting the current business model of insurance-driven patient care by providing preventative care and spending more time getting to know his patients.
He and his colleagues opened their clinic at 2151 Troop Drive in October.
They don’t take health insurance but instead charge patients a monthly membership fee that covers basic services and office visits with modest fees for additional treatments.
Wendlandt says his clinic is attractive to people with extremely high deductibles or no insurance.
“We go back to the old-school style of medicine between a physician and patient, “Wendlandt said.
Without the cost of insurance-driven paperwork and documentation, he can charge less.
Appointments can be longer…typically 30 to 60 minutes…because he doesn’t make money by seeing the most patients but instead by keeping them healthy so they don’t need expensive treatments.
“I make more money when my patients are healthy and stay out of the clinic,” he said. “When I have them see me, it’s gonna be a half hour to an hour and get them healthy.”
A monthly individual membership is $80 and a family membership is $300. The fee covers unlimited office visits and services such as school and sports physicals, screening tests, stitches and treatments for conditions such as colds, flu and sore throats. Examples of the additional fees include $5 for mono and strep testing and $15 for cholesterol testing.
Patients are also welcome to call the clinic at any time with a question or concern and they’ll get a doctor on the line, not an answering machine. A prompt answer can save a parent with a sick child an expensive and possibly unnecessary trip to the emergency room or urgent care.
Sartell Family Medicine also accepts patients who are not members for office visits.
Direct primary care is a relatively new concept. Studies have shown that it provides better health outcomes through better access to physicians and lower transparent costs. The model creates a better provider-patient experience. Lowering the administrative burden allows for longer office visits.
Patients still need presumably high-deductible health insurance to cover specialists and hospital stays.
In additional to medical services, the clinic also offers opiate addiction treatment, medical cannabis certification and mental health counseling and therapy.
The clinic team includes Wendlandt, another doctor, a physician assistant, a mental health coordinator, three nurses and a medical assistant.
Wendlandt completed his University of Minnesota residency with a program at St. Cloud Hospital with a focus on rural medicine, emergency room treatment, obstetrics and addition.
Wendlandt grew up in Hutchinson where he remembers just his family doctor, not a team of specialists and that’s relationship he’s trying to create.
“I’m being a trailblazer and trying to educate the public” about direct patient care, he said. “There’s going to be a lot of thankful physicians in three to five years when they can focus on medicine, not paperwork.”