New Lawrence doctor bringing innovative approach to old-fashioned family medicine

Dr. Ryan Neuhofel talks about his new family practice which is scheduled to open Nov. 28 in the Medical Arts Building, 346 Maine. Neuhofel won't be accepting third party health plans, instead he will charge fees for services. He calls it a 21st Century version of the neighborhood family doctor.

Dr. Ryan Neuhofel talks about his new family practice which is scheduled to open Nov. 28 in the Medical Arts Building, 346 Maine. Neuhofel won't be accepting third party health plans, instead he will charge fees for services. He calls it a 21st Century version of the neighborhood family doctor. by Mike Yoder

There’s a new doctor in town who wants to bring back old-fashioned family medicine with a 21st Century twist.

Not only will he make house calls and hospital visits day or night, but he will see patients via the Internet.

However, he won’t accept any health insurance or third-party plans. Instead, he’s going to charge fees for services. Heck, he’s even willing to barter.

Thirty-year-old Ryan Neuhofel describes himself as a simple doctor who probably has a romanticized view of health care.

“It’s basically me having a relationship with my patients and being up front and honest with no barriers and me trying to do what’s best for my patients as opposed to trying to manage an army of coders and billers,” he said.

Neuhofel, who prefers to be called Dr. Neu, plans to open his family practice NeuCare Family Medicine on Nov. 28 inside the Medical Arts Building at 346 Maine, across from Lawrence Memorial Hospital. He’s accepting patients and construction is under way at his clinic.

Last week, Neuhofel provided a tour of the clinic and then answered questions about himself and his practice during a two-hour interview.

Who is this guy?

Neuhofel grew up in Altoona, a small town with a population of about 500 people in southeast Kansas, and then he went to Friends University in Wichita on a track scholarship. He jokes that his plan was to play video games and run track.

He didn’t decide to pursue medical school until his sophomore year in college after participating in a summer scholarship program when he followed a family doctor in Fredonia.

“He was an old-fashioned country doctor. He owned a farm and would sell a cow and then in the middle of the night go see his patients. He was just such a fascinating character and that’s what got me thinking,” Neuhofel said.

Neuhofel earned a master’s degree in public health at Kansas University Medical Center, where he finished his residency in June. He received his medical degree from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.

Since then, he’s been moonlighting in emergency rooms and preparing to open his practice — something that has been more than three years in making.

He’s also a husband and father. He married his high school senior year prom date, Andi, who is a pharmacist, and they have a 2-year-old son, Lincoln, and a 7-month-old daughter, Elsie.

He decided to open a practice in Lawrence for several reasons. The couple are huge KU fans. He held up his hand and squeezed his index finger and thumb together until the were about an inch apart. “Since I’ve been about this tall, I’ve wanted to play basketball at KU,” he said, with a smile. It also helps to have family nearby.

He picked a town where he believes people are open-minded and open to innovative ideas.

“I think, in general, people are willing to try something new and willing to think outside the box,” he said. “I’m not sure there’s a better place, especially in Kansas but maybe anywhere, than here to do that.”

A new concept

Neuhofel strongly believes in continuity of care and believes his system will allow for a long-lasting doctor-patient relationship despite job, insurance or health conditions. That’s because he doesn’t accept any third party health plans.

Instead, he’s charging a monthly fee and a fee for services. The monthly fee is $10 for people ages 29 and under and $20 for those older.

It covers services such as quick phone calls, lab and diagnostic tests, online personal health record, pharmacist counseling and group education classes.

“Paying low monthly fees allows us to perform quick tasks without charging for every bit of advice, refill, Band-aid or lab,” he said.

His fees for services range from $10 for a web visit to $200 for an after-hours visit. Among other charges:

• $20 — 15-minute office visit.

• $50 — nurse home visit.

• $100 — 30-minute house call.

“No decimals. No tricks,” he said, adding that most of the prices are comparable to typical insurance co-payments.

“The great thing is that I’m not choosing or denying patients based on their diagnosis, complexity of care or existing conditions or any of that stuff,” he said.

While he doesn’t accept insurance, Neuhofel does encourage patients to have some type of insurance or plan in case of an unexpected, expensive health event.

“I believe insurance should be used as a financial tool, but not as an all-inclusive means of managing all types of health care,” he said.

He said patients would need to use insurance plans or pay out of pocket for medicines, lab work and hospitalizations. But, his goal is to cut down on the need for any of them.

In addition, Neuhofel said he’s contacting businesses around town to establish a network of services that would be available to his patients at affordable prices. Part of his job, he said, is to find the best and most affordable care for patients.

Neuhofel said he has seen patients who had diabetes but hadn’t been to a doctor in five years because they changed jobs and lost insurance.

“That’s the silliest thing in the world,” he said. “It shouldn’t be expensive or difficult for people to do that.”

Providing health care

What Neuhofel likes most about his model is that he will be practicing medicine. He won’t be managing a business full of codes, billing systems and red tape.

As a medical resident, he sat in meetings at family practices and was astounded at how discussions typically centered on billing systems — instead of how to improve patient care or communication.

“It was always about the business side of it,” he said.

He’s hired Hannah Cooper, a registered nurse, and they will be the only ones working in the clinic along with his wife, who will offer consultation services as needed.

He said in most practices a message goes through a receptionist, to a nurse and to the doctor and then back through the system. That won’t be the case in his office, where he plans to pick up the phone about 50 percent of the time.

He thinks communication and being accessible is crucial to health outcomes.

“Access means you are sick in the morning and you pick up the phone and the doctor says he will see you. That’s access. That’s what people want,” he said.

His office also will be located in the main exam room. He believes that will make patients feel more comfortable because they can have a conversation at his desk instead of sitting on an exam table.

Neuhofel said he can provide a wide variety of primary care for all ages — from broken arms to removing warts; however, he doesn’t deliver babies. He plans to offer educational programs on topics such as diabetes and high blood pressure and yoga sessions.

“My vision is to provide really comprehensive care for people in my office and I think for the vast majority of people I can do everything in my office,” he said.

Neuhofel also is tech savvy. The clinic has a website where the staff can interact with patients and it has a Facebook page. He talked about using the Internet for appointments. For example, he said a friend showed him a rash one time through a webcam and he immediately identified it and prescribed him a course of treatment.

He also thinks phone applications could be useful in managing chronic conditions, like diabetes. He said a patient could log their sugar levels on a phone application and then email them to him.

“This is going to sound cheesy but it’s true, when I took my oath when I entered medical school, I committed to helping people to the best of my ability. I said I’m going to work my butt off and provide the care that I’m trained to do for a long time,” he said. “I found the current system made that oath a lot more difficult to fulfill.”

Neuhofel knows his novel idea isn’t going to be an easy-sell.

“The big challenge in selling this idea is the concept of health insurance and health care have become synonymous. People don’t make a distinction,” he said. “People need to think about health care instead of health insurance to get health care.”

Dr. Ryan Neuhofel looks over his medical office Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, at the Medical Arts Building, 346 Maine. His office is under construction and he hopes it's completed in time for a Nov. 28 opening. Neuhofel is bringing a new family medicine concept to Lawrence. Neuhofel said he won't be accepting any third party health plans, which will allow him to spend more time providing care. He will offer house calls and Internet visits in addition to traditional office visits.

Dr. Ryan Neuhofel looks over his medical office Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2011, at the Medical Arts Building, 346 Maine. His office is under construction and he hopes it's completed in time for a Nov. 28 opening. Neuhofel is bringing a new family medicine concept to Lawrence. Neuhofel said he won't be accepting any third party health plans, which will allow him to spend more time providing care. He will offer house calls and Internet visits in addition to traditional office visits. by Mike Yoder


NEW FAMILY PRACTICE

Dr. Ryan Neuhofel plans to open NeuCare Family Medicine on Nov. 28 in the Medical Arts Building at 346 Maine.

There will be an open house and ribbon-cutting ceremony from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the practice. The public is invited and there will be light refreshments.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.neucare.net or call 727-4131.

Tagged: wellness, family medicine

Comments

Bob Forer 2 years, 11 months ago

This is a great idea. I read recently of a similar medical practice in California composed of several doctors. They didn't accept health insurance, but instead charged a monthly ongoing fee for for unlimited visits and stressed preventive medicine. Of course, like this doctor, they recommended that their patients obtain a relatively low-cost high deductible major medical insurance plan to cover catastrophic illnesses.

Initial studies show that the overall cost of health care for the patients of the clinic, including deductibles paid by the patient, were significantly less than patients who have a garden variety health insurance plan such as Blue Cross. Researchers attributed at least part of the cost differential to the emphasis placed on preventive medicine, as well as the fact that the time saved by staff in processing insurance claims allowed them to see and treat more patients. .

Doc sounds like a decent human being. Not surprised, as the Quakers I have known have all been good and decent folks.

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Charles L Bloss Jr 2 years, 11 months ago

My best friend's brother, a physician in a suburb of Dallas, has run his practice on a cash only basis for years. It helps his patients and his practice by avoiding hiring extra people just to deal with insurance woes. It works well for him, but a patient with numerous maladies would go bankrupt going to a doctor on a cash only basis.

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sherbert 2 years, 11 months ago

Hope he's ready to get busy because this is a great idea and I think A LOT of people will be calling him up!

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overthemoon 2 years, 11 months ago

If there were more options like this, and people filed their own insurance claims and found out just how ridiculous that process is, there'd be a whole lot more support for a single payer health care system in this country.

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Ali Edwards 2 years, 11 months ago

Awesome. It's great to hear that another doctor in town will be serving a niche of people who experience barriers to receiving health care. Good luck, Dr. Neu!

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Karrey Britt 2 years, 11 months ago

Dr. Neu has agreed to do an online chat on WellCommons once his practice is up and running and after the holidays. Looking forward to moderating the chat.

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IgnorantYokel 2 years, 11 months ago

Best of luck, Dr. Neu.

This is a great idea, and I'm happy to see it in our community.

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Raymond Munoz 2 years, 11 months ago

Welcome, Dr. Neu! We'll be next door at the Douglas County Dental Clinic if you ever need any help from an uninsured dental care perspective!

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itwasthedukes 2 years, 11 months ago

This will not be allowed under Obama care so good luck while you can. Great concept wish we could have this as the rule instead of the exception considering the debacle we ended up with in Healthcare.

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Chris Leiszler 2 years, 11 months ago

This will still be allowed under ObamaCare. ObamaCare only forces us all to buy health insurance; not that we go to a doctor that accepts our insurance. I'm with you, I think ObamaCare is one of the absolute worst ideas any President has come up with, ever. But I'm not yet ready to conclude that Dr. Neu is necessarily going to be affected by it. (At least I hope not.) And I don't necessarily think he intends to cater solely to the uninsured. I think he wants to cater to those individuals who would like some personal, individualized care... People who want what is best for their health, not just what is best for their wallet. Because we sure as heck aren't going to be getting personal, individualized care once ObamaCare takes full effect. I really like this concept of not allowing a 3rd party payer to interfere with the doctor/patient relationship. That's the way it should be, and I too hope this is a trend that continues to build momentum. Go get 'em Dr. Neu!

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chootspa 2 years, 11 months ago

Paying cash for services and having a high deductible plan for major medical? Yes, that's totally allowed and probably encouraged. For that matter, you could just skip the major medical and pay the tax penalty if you were so inclined.

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Dan Thalmann 2 years, 11 months ago

Fascinating concept and I applaud him for trying it. I would strongly encourage you to do a follow up story in a year or two though, to see how it is going.

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hcainc 2 years, 11 months ago

A great volunteer of ours! Glad they will be our neighbor!

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Anydaynow 2 years, 9 months ago

I think this gentleman has decided on a terrific idea to help people in need at a reasonable price frame. Hope he makes things work. If I were not so far away I would be one of his patients, even though I have plenty of insurance. Just sounds like he is thinking of helping people without being too cost-conscious.

I think he will do fine, but will soon find out he will need more staff.

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