Direct Primary Care, a burgeoning medical model, spread to the eastern edge of Iowa when Women’s Choice Center in Bettendorf helped launch the independent family practice of Dr. Julie Schroeder of Life and Family Medical in December 2020.
In the Direct Primary Care (DPC) model, families and individuals pay a low monthly membership fee determined by the number of adults and children to be served. That fee covers all office visits and provides access to their doctor via phone, email, text, and telemedicine, even after hours if needed.
Schroeder noted some key benefits of operating under this model.
“The DPC model emphasizes the importance of the relationship between doctor and patient, uninterrupted by administrators or insurance, in achieving and maintaining good health,” she said. “Another resource is access to lab work that can be 90 percent less than standard pricing.”
Additionally, because Women’s Choice Center and Life and Family Medical are co-located, financially challenged clients at the pregnancy center can easily access complete and affordable medical care at Schroeder’s clinic.
“In one case example, we can provide thyroid testing for a post-partum client that is receiving counseling at Women’s Choice Center and make sure a physiological problem is not adding to her challenges as a new mother,” Schroeder said.
Drawn to this first-ever Direct Primary Care practice in Iowa’s Quad Cities region, some patients take a two-hour drive to reach Life and Family Medical. Once there, many of them inquire about the co-located pregnancy center.
“It gives us the opportunity to spread the word about the work of Women’s Choice Center,” Schroeder said. “Our patients so far are also very excited to receive their own medical care from a doctor and clinic that are supportive of the work being done at Women’s Choice Center.”
Teamwork with WCC
Linda Rubey, executive director of Women’s Choice Center, admires the model Schroeder uses.
“With insurance, doctors are limited in the time they can spend with each patient; they may see 60 patients a day,” she said. “But in Direct Primary Care, it's not unusual to have a half-hour to hour-long appointment with your physician.”
With this kind of scheduling, Schroeder’s practice had no need for a crowded waiting room. This allowed Rubey’s center to regain some client programming space, something she had given up upon moving into this 8500-square-foot former Planned Parenthood facility.
In addition to their nonmedical services, Rubey’s medical center has offered attempted abortion pill reversal since 2014—making it the first such provider in Iowa—along with pregnancy testing, STI testing, and limited obstetrical ultrasound, both in-office and via a mobile medical unit with stops across the Quad Cities all week long. By 2020, the center saw over 1,000 medical appointments annually.
Watching those numbers rising, Rubey welcomed an offer from the local Knights of Columbus to donate a second ultrasound machine, set to double their capacity starting this month.
“The number of people who had to be delayed were significant enough that we knew having a second ultrasound and the staff to run two at one time would help keep women from saying, ‘I can't get in, I need to go somewhere else’ and perhaps being led to make a different pregnancy decision,” she said.
She added, “We just want to meet the needs of as many moms as we can when they call, and they are fearful and trying to find the answers for their unplanned pregnancy.”
Always poised for provision
Rubey and her team now see welcoming unexpected provision, such as family physician Dr. Schroeder in place of an anticipated natural family planning provider, to be de rigueur in their work. Multiple times, Rubey or her predecessor have discovered professionals among those who simply came to volunteer around the center.
Hiring a licensed social worker as a client advocate, for example, happened somewhat accidentally.
“That is such a gift, and something centers should look for, especially when it comes to referrals,” Rubey said. “Having that one-on-one after moms decide to keep their baby, having someone to care and walk beside them is very important."
Finding a mental health professional serving as a volunteer receptionist was another blessing.
Dr. Angelika Peiffer is a licensed psychiatrist, and she has been a godsend for us to refer certain clients with special needs, whether it's post-partum depression or family issues,” said Rubey. “She is now coordinating with Dr. Schroeder for testing with blood work we can't perform here at our center, but we can align ourselves and work together to expand our assistance for clients from a medical standpoint.”
As part of Women’s Choice Center, these two types of expertise are available to clients free of charge.
With this experience Rubey believes staying receptive to what God provides should be every pregnancy help organization’s goal.
“We serve the community and want to be open-minded and creative,” she said. “When you're looking to the future, don't put yourself in a box, as if you have to fit what other centers or people do. Allow yourself freedom to follow where God is leading. Every community and the talents in the center are different. Those giftings are not an accident. They’re for a purpose.”
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