Self-pay patients in the area south of Nashville, Tennessee have what looks to be at least one terrific option when they need a doctor’s office prepared to cater to their needs. Sanctuary Functional Medicine, founded by Dr. Eric Potter, has an office in Spring Hill, which appears to be about half an hour south of Nashville (depending on traffic, of course). Another office will be opening next week in Franklin, also south of Nashville.
Potter and the practice’s other doctor, Theron Hutton, offer what they call “functional medicine,” which their web site describes this way:
Functional medicine is a modern approach to healthcare that seeks to address the underlying causes of disease, rather than just treating acute symptoms. Practitioners of functional medicine take a more patient-centric approach to your care by viewing you as a whole person—with an integrated body—as opposed to just an isolated set of symptoms.
One of the benefits of this approach, and one that is fairly typical of most cash-only practices, is that they are able to spend a lot of time with their patients:
As a functional medicine practice, we spend at least 90 minutes with each of our patients on their initial visits. The average visit after that is 30-60 minutes. We take the time to ask thorough questions and to listen in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the root causes of your body’s dysfunction.
They also try to incorporate approaches to health care beyond standard Western medicine:
Unfortunately, many of today’s patients are often forced to choose between traditional Western medicine and alternative, holistic approaches to healthcare when evaluating their care. We believe both have value and can play in important role in treating a patient. In addition to prescribing medicine, we may also prescribe a new nutrition program or fitness regime. In some cases, a botanical supplement, or counseling, can serve as an effective, much safer alternative to taking a pharmaceutical drug. Each patient is unique and deserves to have the best science-based care from both Western medicine and holistic care.
Dr. Potter’s story of why he founded Sanctuary is one that will sound familiar:
After spending several years trying to care for patients in multiple conventional medical settings, Dr. Eric Potter realized the clock was ticking faster and faster: either see more patients in a day (spending less time with each one) or get off the hamster wheel and provide real care. Once he discovered the Direct Pay Care business model, the pieces fell into place that enabled him to found and open Sanctuary Medical Care and Consulting in 2014.
And his explanation for why he doesn’t accept insurance will not surprise anyone either:
Paying at the time of service means that you are not paying for bureaucracy, nor for administration, but for your health. It means that you and your physician decide your care, rather than third parties whose interest may not coincide with your own best interest. Moreover, your physician can spend more time caring for you, rather than filling out paperwork.
One of the under-appreciated benefits of the services offered by Sanctuary is that it has its own pharmacy, and bill patients at cost for the medicines it sells. I spoke with Dr. Potter yesterday and he said they keep about 40 commonly prescribed medicines in stock, typically at savings up to 80 percent. He specifically noted that a prednisone prescription that normally runs $20 at a pharmacy is available to his patients for around $5 (I neglected to ask what the dose/quantity was). Sanctuary can also order in specific medicines for patients that it doesn’t routinely stock, offering more savings. Lab tests performed in-house are free, while patients only pay the practice’s cost of labs that are sent out.
Sanctuary is a direct primary care practice, meaning a relatively modest monthly fee covers all routine visits and treatments, which typically can be scheduled for the same or the next day and typically last from 30 minutes to an hour as needed. In addition, the practice will also see patients who aren’t members on a walk-in basis, similar to cash-only practices that haven’t gone the direct primary care route.
If there’s one criticism of the practice, it’s that the web site doesn’t include prices, instead inviting patients to call and request pricing information. Dr. Potter did share with me that most patients pay between $70 and $120 a month, with the younger patients paying towards the lower end and older patients paying at the higher end. Compared to what self-pay patients and even many with “comprehensive” insurance pay these days for a doctor’s appointment, these fees seem pretty reasonable for anyone who will be visiting the doctor more than a few times a year.
The practice is located at 3011 Harrah Drive, Suite T, in Spring Hill, and those looking for more information should either call (615) 614-2500 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.