by Carrie Jackson and Karen G. Meshkov
When Julia Helstrom, DO, founded the Bucks County Center for Integrative Medicine (BCIM) this past year, it was because she imagined a better way for primary care. Before landing back in Doylestown, she was working 70 hours a week as a Family Medicine osteopath at a busy Philadelphia clinic and feeling increasingly disappointed with the limits of the traditional doctor-patient experience, as well as with the outcomes resulting from that relationship. When it came time to open her own practice, Helstrom knew that she wanted to pursue an alternative path being taken up by other forward-thinking, independent physicians—a subscription-based practice model known as “direct primary care” (DPC).
“DPC is gaining popularity in the physician world because doctors are frustrated with insurance companies telling us how to care for our patients. More guidelines have created an atmosphere where physicians spend more time with paperwork to justify why they are providing quality care for patients instead of taking care of those patients,” says Helstrom.
As a DPC provider, BCIM offers the best of traditional medicine with an integrative approach, including functional medicine, osteopathic manipulation and health coaching. Their focus is preventative medicine and building relationships with their patients. Helstrom explains, “Integrative Medicine combines the best of the Western approach with the healing principles of many other practices. One person may choose that medication and stress reduction techniques are what is best for them. Another individual may choose to use exercise and nutrition-based strategies for the same complaint. The physician is a partner in this healing process. We start with natural and the least invasive modalities and work our way through to more invasive solutions if needed for each individual.”
The team at BCIM works to offer affordable care without sacrificing quality, and Helstrom says that the DPC model supports this. “No one can get good care in the average seven-minute doctor’s appointment. Patients want time with their doctor, and they want someone that knows them. In my practice, we sit down and talk for somewhere between 60 and 90 minutes at our first appointment. Goals are created together, structured together and celebrated together. DPC allows time with my patients and allows me to monitor their progress.” Unlike other concierge medical practices, hers is designed to keep costs affordable. “Patients get low-cost medications, low-cost labs, and discounts on other alternative therapies. This cost savings often averages more than the monthly membership fee they pay.”
A Bucks County native, Helstrom is passionate about being a leader in the movement toward a healthier community. “People here are working together to make a more positive experience now and for the future. I intend for BCIM to contribute to the health of individuals but also grow to be a model of health in the community. The vision for the future practice will include additional physicians, naturopaths, nutritionists and health coaches, acupuncturists, massage therapy, physical therapy, personal trainers, mind-body medicine, yoga, pilates, and a very large food program, including a kitchen, chef, garden and programs to educate people on their health and wellness. As a Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), I feel lucky to have studied medicine from the perspective of ‘mind, body, spirit’. We were taught from the very beginning that everything is connected. The health of our community influences each of our patients and is based on the health of each individual,” says Helstrom.
Carrie Jackson is a frequent writer for Natural Awakenings. Connect at Carrie1Jackson@yahoo.com.
Karen G. Meshkov is the publisher and director of advertising partnerships for Natural Awakenings of Bucks and Montgomery Counties. Connect at Publisher@NABuxMont.com.