All In A Day's Work

Posted by Janae Melvin on June 28, 2017 in Dr. Jennifer (Holtwick) Harader, ’00, recognized she would thrive in the medical field while still in high school. “I realized I was smart, and I also realized I loved life sciences. When I took Anatomy and Physiology I knew I was in the right place.”

“Jennifer was a Chemistry major at OU,” recalls Dr. Hank Tillinghast, Professor Emeritus. “Because of her professional demeanor and the amount of time Jenn spent in the department fulfilling her lab technician duties, I believe I have always engaged with her as more of an academic colleague rather than student and professor.”

Her classmates agree. Harader just “got it.”

“Jenn and I shared several biology, physics, speech and chemistry classes,” says Bonnie (Horsch) Walker, ’00.  “We studied often together, but really it was more of a tutoring session where Jenn would patiently try to help me understand the difficult concepts that seemed to come so naturally for her.”

After four years of medical school and three years in residency, Harader accepted a position with St. Francis Medical Center in Topeka, KS. She worked seven years in an environment that is very normal for most American family doctors.

“A typical day at St. Francis involved seeing 20-25 patients,” remembers Harader, “mainly for chronic medical issues or acute sicknesses. Nationally, the average time spent face-to-face is seven minutes. When issues arose during the visit that could not be managed in that average of seven minutes, I referred them out for specialty care. Each patient I saw resulted in spending 10-20 minutes documenting, outside of any time spent directly providing care. I also responded to messages from nurses about patients, reviewed labs from the day before and completed paperwork needed by patients.”

Harader had over 3,500 patients by the end of her tenure with St. Francis and while this number is staggering, it is not uncommon for primary care providers. Like many physicians, Harader was pressured to see as many people in a day as she could. Frustrated and exhausted, Harader began to think of alternate solutions.

Harader’s first exposure to concierge medicine was during residency but she was unimpressed. In concierge practice, doctors charge patients a significant membership fee in addition to collecting from insurance companies. Harader saw this as “more access for people who have plenty of access already.” Direct Primary Care (DPC) is different because DPCs do not accept insurance for primary care needs, so they are able to charge much less for membership fees.

“Once I understood the difference,” says Harader. “I realized that DPC really makes healthcare affordable to those who cannot afford or access it in other traditional systems. From the time I learned about DPC to opening Oasis, it was a little over a year.”

Starting Oasis Family Medicine tasked Harader’s non-medical skills just as much as her doctor-related talents. Leasing a building, overseeing office and patient room construction, ordering equipment, setting up an in-house pharmacy - all of it was new and taxing.

“I spent significant time finding local vendors to provide services for the clinic,” says Harader. “I came to expect a fairly universal response from people who were new to the DPC concept: first, they would look at me like I was crazy, then they would try to poke holes in the model, then finally they would get it, really get it. A light would come on and they would start to talk about all the ways they and their friends could benefit from direct primary care.”

Patients aren’t the only ones to gain. Now, the Harader family enjoys a much better work/life balance. Matt Harader, ’99, serves as business manager. He handles accounts payable and receivable as well as meeting with new members so they understand how DPC works.

“Working with my wife has been a real blessing,” says Matt. “We don’t always see each other a lot over the course of the day but overall it has definitely enhanced our marriage to share in this endeavor.”

“Now I see eight to ten patients daily,” says Dr. Harader. “Each patient is scheduled for 30-60 minutes. With a total patient panel numbering just over 600, I have more time for each person. I refer to specialists much less frequently because I have time and resources to better evaluate patients. I am on call 24/7 for my patients, which means I am able to take care of the urgent needs they have after hours which saves them money and avoids fracturing their care.”

God gives each of us a set number of days; how we spend them matters. Dr. Jennifer Harader is spending hers making a valuable difference in the lives of her patients and their families.