‘Faith-based’ direct care center opens

Anne Marie Amacher
Julie DeLeon, left, and Dr. Julie Schroeder prepare for an upcoming appointment at Life & Family Medical in Bettendorf. The new direct care facility is adjacent to the Women’s Choice Center.

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

BETTENDORF — Encouraging the physical and spiritual wellness of individuals is the focus of Life & Family Medical’s new Direct Primary Care facility (DPC). The center is located in the former Planned Parenthood building, next door to the Women’s Choice Center.

Dr. Julie Schroeder is the primary care physician and assisted by Julie DeLeon, a certified medical assistant, who have worked together for more than 15 years. They are the DPC’s only employees.
Life & Family Medical is “faith based,” Schroeder said.

Prior to joining Life & Family, Schroeder said she had been researching information on direct care. “I was very intrigued. People are not getting the care they need. This is a different way to get to them.” This is the first DPC center in the Diocese of Davenport. There are a few in the Des Moines area, Waterloo, Iowa, and Peoria, Illinois.

She emphasized that everyone should see a physician on a regular basis whether at Life & Family or elsewhere. General medical professionals work to catch patients’ potential health issues earlier and thus reduce the need to see a specialist. “We work on prevention.” Sometimes just changing a behavior can lead to a healthier lifestyle, she said.

What is direct care?

Schroeder said direct care restores the doctor-patient relationship. It also puts individuals in control of their health care choices — not the insurance company. Direct care patients pay a flat fee for services, which covers all wellness visits, chronic illness visits and physicals, including sports physicals. Those visits will last longer than a typical physician’s visit because of the limited number of clients Schroeder will see overall. She also anticipates working patients into her schedule in a timelier manner.

The average office visit is now 8 minutes in many practices, she said. “Your standard appointment with us is 30 minutes. You don’t have to take that whole time. And some may go a bit longer,” Schroeder said.

She can also do minor suturing, simple lesion removals or biopsies (extra pathology fee may apply), lab tests for rapid strep, urine dip and pregnancy tests, ear wax irrigation and telemedicine visits when appropriate.

Fee for service is primarily based on age, paid monthly whether seen or not. Insurance is not accepted. Blood draws can be done in the office or at the lab with whom the DPC partners, at a reduced cost. Schroeder has partnered with a pharmacy to obtain medication at reduced costs. Medications she does not have on hand can be ordered within one to two days, she said.

Patients with questions may call or text Schroeder. “It’s like having a family member who is a physician.” As an example, a patient might have a rash and can send her a picture to determine whether a visit is necessary. Those calls/texts are logged into the electronic medical record as well.

Schroeder is working with other diagnostic facilities to offer radiology services such as X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans and MRIs. She also is working with a pharmacy to offer immunizations and vaccinations.

Each client is encouraged to keep a health insurance plan because the direct care model does not cover hospitalizations, surgeries and some other medical expenses. She noted families might be able to buy a cheaper plan that covers the larger expense items such as hospitalizations.

Currently, she is in the office three days a week. As the practice grows, she plans to expand hours. Her goal is to cap the practice at around 400 patients. Some patients may need to be seen just once a year. Others with medical conditions might need to be seen twice a year or more often.

DeLeon can do blood draws and some other medical tests, do referrals, set up appointments and take care of phone inquiries. “I can see the relationship (between doctor and patient) here. We get to know them.”

Spiritual aspect

Schroeder said in current family practice, physicians are discouraged from talking about the spiritual aspect of patients’ lives. With direct care, “I’m okay with praying for and with my patients.” She also said she will work with families to meet their spiritual and religious beliefs.

Individuals and families trying to discern whether direct care is right for them may visit the center’s website at www.lifeandfamilymedical.com for answers to questions. Prices also are posted. Schroeder can address additional questions.

The initial visit is virtual. “There are no masks and we get 45 minutes to an hour to get know each other. I have time to do a solid medical history.” Schroeder has developed a more extensive medical history and family history form. “I can see what might come up by going into extensive detail – including parent’s and siblings’ history.”

Following that appointment, the patient comes into the center for a physical check, which requires a mask. “And yes, you can have someone come with you.” Schroeder does not take patients receiving public aid. Others with or without insurance, including Medicare, can join.

Schroeder does not offer obstetric services, prescribe birth control or make abortion referrals.

Schroeder and DeLeon are talking with potential donors and sponsors to help those with financial difficulties to pay for their memberships.

For more information about Life & Family Medical, visit www.lifeandfamilymedical.com or call (563) 526-4536.

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Discerning the call to lead Life & Family Medical Clinic | Catholic Health Care Today

By Dr. Julie Schroeder

Call it a mid-life crisis if you will. Or maybe it’s just enough years of life experience that leads one to know that there are options in life and that those that seemed pretty scary before might be worth the risk now.

I always knew I would be a doctor. My mom tells stories of me watching medical shows at the age of 3. After high school, I looked for a college with a good pre-med program and landed at Val­paraiso Uni­versity in In­diana. I appre­ciated being able to integrate my faith with my science education. When it came time for medical school, I was fortunate to continue that integrated experience at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago. Medicine is a science, but also an art. For me, and for many others, part of that art is rooted in our faith beliefs.

I entered medical school thinking I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon. My first clinical rotation was surgery. Nope — didn’t like that. Next was pediatrics. Another no. (At this point my parents panicked a bit that I was going to decide “no” to the whole doctor thing.) Then I did my rotation in family medicine. This was it. Some seem to think family medicine is boring but I can tell you no two days are ever the same. The variety of ages, people and stories make me love being able to treat patients from birth to grave.

I have practiced family medicine in the Quad Cities for over 20 years with experience on both sides of the Mississippi River. I have been lucky enough to work for independent practices that have been willing to let me push the boundaries a bit to make my practice more relationship-based like it should be. However, the economic reality of health care today makes this a difficult thing to do and financially stay afloat. I have also been fortunate to work part-time, which has let me be active in my other roles that I cherish as a wife, mother and church member.

I found myself a few years ago wanting to make a change in my career. I prayed that God would let me know if that was the right thing to do then. I felt like I got a “no.” So, I stayed the course and continued to pray. About a year and a half ago, I felt the answer was changing. But what would I do next? I had ideas, but nothing firm. I really felt that God was challenging me to take a step out in faith. With no specific plan but the support of my family, I made the decision to leave my practice and see where God led me.

I attended a couple of conferences that brought new insight and knowledge but nothing definite. Then, out of the blue, I received an email last fall from a group trying to get a Christian-based, primary care clinic started in the Quad Cities. They had been looking for a provider for over a year. Now this was interesting! We talked, we prayed. I don’t remember praying for patience, but I must have, because God’s timetable for this project was about a year behind mine. I thought I could open this clinic by January 2020, then March … June … August. God willing, it will be next month, November 2020.

We all know God’s timing is the best timing; it is just usually easier to see that in hindsight. My time off allowed me to help my parents and in-laws through some medical crises. I got to take a three-week trip of a lifetime with my husband and our teenagers that would have been impossible this year. I was home for all the highlights and then lowlights of my daughter’s senior year. I got to spend so much extra time with my family through quarantine. All priceless.

Now it seems the hurdles that have slowed me down are falling in a hurry. I am so excited to be partnering with Life and Family Educational Trust to open the first direct primary care clinic in the Quad Cities. I will not only be allowed, but also encouraged to practice medicine — both the science and the art — from a place of love as modeled by Christ. I look forward to sharing more about Life & Family Medical Clinic in Bettendorf soon.

If you find yourself in the position to make a significant change in your life, first pray and then listen. Be willing to take the step in faith and then trust in God’s planning and timing.

(Dr. Julie Schroeder is the medical director of the Life & Family Medical Clinic, opening soon in Bettendorf.)

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