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Meet Dr. Deepti Mundkur

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Deepti Mundkur.

Hi Dr. Mundkur, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My story began in the small coastal town of Honavar in Southern India. My parents settled in this new town after training to be doctors and chose to run their own hospital. I woke up most mornings listening to the cry of a newborn baby my mother just delivered in the labor room below our home.

Remember the time when doctors had their own cute little clinics and made house calls when you needed attention. Those were the days when doctor-patient relationships were built on trust, blossomed with time and were stronger than ever. It is rare to see such clinics in 2021 where you feel heard by the doctor.

Living in a small town meant that it was difficult to procure surgical equipment or anesthetic medicines for performing surgery. I saw how my parents, who were both surgeons, came up with innovative solutions to better the health of our hometown. People of the town selflessly helped my parents implement these innovative ideas to save lives. I vividly remember a determined rickshaw driver hopping onto his rickshaw and driving to the neighboring town in order to procure blood from the nearest blood bank to help our bleeding patient. We successfully transfused the blood and a life was saved.

My story is shaped by these experiences and these memories fueled my passion to start my own clinic where modern technology is blended with old-fashioned doctor-patient relationships. I live in San Diego – popularly known as America’s Finest City. Do we need old-fashioned doctor-patient relationships in San Diego? Yes! Every person on earth needs a doctor that provides affordable and transparent pricing, has time for you, who slows down to listen and who simplifies the complicated layers of the healthcare system – a doctor our grandparents remember and love!

Today, I am a self-employed primary care physician (I know that doesn’t sound too exciting) – the exciting part is that I offer an affordable gym-membership style model for primary care in San Diego. I provide all outpatient care personally for all my patients leaving no room for miscommunication or delays from call centers or other staff. All my patients get my cell phone number when they start a membership with “myhappydoctor.” Membership benefits include unlimited telemedicine appointments, free home delivery of medicines, free house-calls monthly along with nearly 90% discount pricing for blood tests and prescriptions compared to insurance prices. Everyday since I started “myhappydoctor”, I come up with innovative solutions to overcome new and mysterious insurance hurdles. I aspire to provide affordable medical care in a city where emergency rooms are always crowded and overworked because patients don’t have access to good quality primary care. I am a new kind of doctor with simple, upfront, barbershop-style pricing, which is unheard of in the traditional insurance-based healthcare system. The kind of doctor who remembers your name without having to glance at your medical chart.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Before the launch of “myhappydoctor”, I was just another insurance-based corporate clinic doctor for about six months. I didn’t know any better because almost every doctor proceeds to join an insurance-based fee-for-service clinic when they graduate. I noticed many core issues with the insurance-based practice model.

My patients often asked simple questions like, “How much does this medicine cost?” “Will the cost of medicine be covered by insurance?” “How much do the blood tests cost?” – to which I had no answers. I had no answers because of the complicated insurance-based pricing that is unique to every insurance company. I had no answers because insurance companies always have hoops they made me and my patients jump through for simple tests or prescriptions. I could never guarantee the price of my service. I have had shocking occasions when patients could not get a simple medicine like metformin. Metformin is a medication that has been used for years as the first-line treatment for diabetes. I have filled elaborate forms and paperwork has piled on my desk amidst seeing 30 patients in the day – all frantic attempts to get this simple medicine covered through insurance. The harder truth to swallow is that metformin, like most other common prescription medicines – costs only $5 for one month supply and yet we are stuck with the insurance model for primary care. Wouldn’t my time be best spent listening to my patient instead of completing pointless insurance prior authorization forms?

Just like you would want to know how much your burger costs before you eat it, or your new car tire costs before you purchase it, or your haircut costs before you get one… Don’t you want to know how much the medicine costs before you purchase it?

Imagine going to the barbershop for a haircut and you don’t know the price for the haircut. Then imagine the barbershop sending surprise bills to you for months on end (This is exactly what insurance companies do. Health Insurance companies send you their infamous “Explanation Of Benefits” – which literally explains why they won’t cover your healthcare costs) and if you can’t afford to pay the bill, a collection agency starts harassing you with phone calls to pay. Would you have chosen to have that haircut if you knew the price in advance? Isn’t this imaginary barbershop causing you financial harm and undue stress?

I couldn’t bear to continue with the insurance-based model of outpatient medicine since I saw the emotional and financial pain my patients were put through by insurance companies and the rushed visits with incomplete assessments because of pressure from my employer to see more patients everyday. My employer wanted me to see an assembly line of 30 patients a day while endless insurance red tape bogged me down. My patients waited for nearly 4 months to see their doctor and after a long wait in the waiting room – when the patient finally sits in the exam room to get examined, the doctor barely spends 5 minutes and has to rush to the next patient.

There is no doubt that we all need health insurance for emergencies, expensive procedures, hospitalizations and specialists, just like we need car insurance for unexpected accidents. But we don’t need insurance for most health maintenance – just like we don’t need car insurance for a simple oil change.

Something had to change! My patients couldn’t easily access me because I was too busy with the time-sensitive yet redundant paperwork. I didn’t have time for my patients when they needed me the most. Something had to change immediately because my patients deserved better!

So I started “myhappydoctor” – where I slowed down to spend more time understanding my patient’s health and concerns. I removed distracting paperwork and focused on being directly available to all my patients. I became affordable for students. I became accessible via telemedicine to people living in remote California locations where there are no doctors or clinics for miles. Since “myhappydoctor”, I became a happier person and feel like I am finally making a difference.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
With “myhappydoctor”, I encourage my patients to “Binge on Healthcare”! I provide upfront pricing for all the lab testing, medications and for all my services. I took an oath to not just “Do no harm” but also to “Do no financial harm” to my patients. Since I am a Board Certified Internal Medicine physician licensed in California, I can provide care for diabetes, high blood pressure, urine infections, skin infections, gout, autoimmune conditions, thyroid abnormalities and diagnose almost any adult patient ailment under the sun. For optimal treatment, it is very important to first have a correct diagnosis for your symptoms. For thorough workup and diagnosis, it is vital to have a good primary care doctor instead of rushing to specialists before preliminary tests are performed. A good primary care doctor can guide you to the right specialist after narrowing down possible diagnoses. A correct diagnosis requires a detailed discussion with patients about symptoms. A 5-minute rushed appointment will never be able to provide enough time for a diagnosis.

My patients get 60 minutes of my dedicated time for each appointment and often need many such appointments within the first couple of weeks until we get the patient feeling better. With membership, we do not charge extra for any telemedicine appointments. Our flat monthly membership fee is age-based and doesn’t penalize patients for spending more time with us or for having severe health conditions. In contrast, the insurance model of billing is based on the severity of your health which is why insurance-based primary care clinics get paid more if the patient’s diagnosis is a serious one. At “myhappydoctor,” with the Direct Primary Care billing model, we are incentivized to keep our patients healthier so that we have time to help more patients in the community.

Life happens – and we are there for our patients when they need us. Studies have shown that Direct Primary Care increases primary care appointments by 115% while reducing emergencies by 59% and reducing hospitalizations by 30%, compared to insurance-clinic care.

Over the years, the insurance model of medicine has led us to believe that we have no option but to use health insurance for all health issues, however minor they may be. With my direct primary care model, I guide patients to better savings by using health insurance only when we do not have another inexpensive alternative. Patients are surprised when “myhappydoctor” lab testing and prescription discounts are often 90% off of the insurance-pricing and without having to deal with cumbersome insurance paperwork. Some of my direct primary care colleagues call our model – “Healthcare, without the headache”.

I am most proud that my brand is “bringing back old-fashioned doctor-patient relationships and house-calls by a friendly modern doctor for an affordable price”. If you can afford a cell phone bill, you can afford good primary care.

Recently, I had a patient who sought me out because her insurance-based clinic doctor wants her to make an in-person appointment for a urine infection (because their billing model involves insurance reimbursement only for in-person visits). Insurance-based doctors don’t get paid by insurance if they just pick up the phone and call the patient to treat the urine infection. So this symptomatic patient was not prescribed antibiotics and was required to wait until the earliest available in-person appointment five days from the start of symptoms. In 2021, where telemedicine is easily available, instant chatting and texting, same-day deliveries are available, holding prescription medicines hostage to an in-person visit can not only cause undue distress to patients – it can lead to hospitalizations from a spread of the infection to the kidneys, and can lead to financial harm from the emergency medical costs. This is where “myhappydoctor” tries to bring the change. I work with my patients’ work schedules and arrange for medicines to be delivered at their office or home. This allows patients to avoid taking time off from work and empowers them to take control of their health and expenses.

Any big plans?
My big plan is to encourage more doctors – budding doctors such as premedical students to learn about this model so that the future of medicine is transparent, simple and of the highest quality! I offer free weekly virtual mentorship sessions for pre-med students all over the world so that the world becomes a healthier place and people are saved from healthcare debt! I believe we can all do our part to make the world a happier and healthier place. Many physicians are choosing direct primary care because it is the common-sense practice of modern medicine, which provides no room for middlemen to squeeze money from innocent and hard-working patients.

Pricing:

  • 18-29 year old members – $50/month
  • 30-44 year old members – $75/month
  • 45 year and older members – $100/month
  • Non-member 60 minute physician televisit – $175
  • Non-member 60 minute physician housecall – $269

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Sameer Mundkur

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