Guest article by Table Health primary care physician, Andrea Stoecker DO, as published in the September 2021 Healthy Living issue of Northern Michigan Woman.
It took me 12 years to realize that my career as a computer programmer was not fulfilling at all, so at the age of 35 I went back to school to study medicine.
While being a wife and mother during medical school and residency brought about many extra challenges, it was my family that provided me with the support and motivation I needed to get through it. I was further motivated by my passion to help people become healthy and I wanted to gain as much knowledge as I could to make that happen.
I’m proud, excited, and even humbled to share that today I am helping people heal, stay healthy, and create a lifestyle that encompasses all aspects of their health. I’m one of two physicians (along with a team of highly trained medical professionals experienced in bodywork, nutrition and the use of expanded lab testing and diagnostic techniques) currently providing care at Table Health, a Direct Primary Care and Functional Medicine practice in Traverse City.
My journey to Table Health was serendipitous and after a warm welcome, my resilience, like many, was tested. My first year was filled with many challenges including moving my family, building our home, and building my practice all during a global pandemic. Fortunately I’ve emerged on the other side, with a renewed focus to not only offer the best care for my patients but care for myself, too.
Although not necessarily new, many are unfamiliar with Direct Primary Care (DPC) as a model of healthcare. It’s an alternative to traditional fee-for-service third-party-payer billing and effectively allows providers to spend more time with patients and keep costs transparent, while avoiding many of the hassles that are common when dealing with the constraints placed by insurance companies.
Just as you may join a subscription service such as Netflix to watch your favorite shows, you can pay a monthly fee to your doctor to cover primary care services such as office visits, lab services, procedures, care coordination, and comprehensive care management.
This approach to healthcare has seen rapid growth across the U.S. in the past few years. And thanks to Table Health it is now an option in Northern Michigan.
So how does it work?
Table Health DPC members pay a low monthly fee (ranging by age) that covers most primary care services from your annual exam to stitching up your child’s finger, and everything in between. There are no co-pays, no deductibles, no waiting to get in to see your doctor. Because we don’t participate with insurance, we’re not bound by its regulations which can create barriers for providers and patients in their quest toward optimal health.
I chose this model of healthcare because it’s important that I work for my patients, not the insurance company. To put it into context, if I have a busy day; I see 6 patients. A conventional primary care doctor will see 20+ patients per day, with an average visit time of about 7 minutes. So, you see, the DPC model allows me to really take the time that’s needed to figure out the underlying causes of their health challenges; and meet them on a relational, emotional and physical level. It’s flexible too! Patients don’t have to come in to be taken care of; I am available to answer questions through our portal or we can schedule a quick telephone call or telehealth visit if that’s more appropriate.
A common misconception is that because we don’t participate with insurance, our services will be a huge out of pocket expense, but that is simply not the case. A lot of insurance plans now have high deductibles and copays and with this model, you can have multiple visits and it will still be less than the average, conventional insurance co-pay. Our monthly fee is set and transparent (no surprises) to cover all of your visits, including after hour access to your provider for urgent needs.
Combining a Functional Medicine approach with DPC is the antidote to transactional, pharmaceutical-driven medicine. It aims to keep the well-being of each individual in balance by treating the whole person. This approach also nurtures a strong patient and provider relationship that encourages changes in lifestyle that can make a huge and lasting impact on overall health.
Create Healthy Habits
Some advice that I commonly give to patients, women especially, to support this 360 degree approach to health, is to take care of yourself. Meditate for 10 minutes every day; nourish your body with seven servings of vegetables daily; aim for 35 grams of fiber every day to help balance your hormones; and find time to enjoy your hobbies regularly. I also work with my patients to make sure physical intimacy with their partner is comfortable because that is often overlooked.
I get to see the positive impact this approach makes on people’s health and see them get better and it’s inspiring! I’m passionate about my work because I’m actually helping people live better and heal rather than covering up symptoms for short-term results.
Andrea Stoecker is a board certified osteopathic family physician who graduated from Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and completed her family medicine residency at McLaren Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. At Table Health, she is able to help the body achieve balance through manipulation, as well as perform a full range of primary care needs. As a doctor trained in functional medicine, she listens to each patient’s story to determine the root cause of their symptoms and considers the whole person to develop their path toward healing using an integrative approach. She is married with a 14-year-old daughter and three cats, and enjoys dancing, volleyball, swimming, hiking, gardening, and cooking.