Cooper Care Alliance Introduces Direct Primary Care

Patients receive a more personal level of services

Cooper has long been recognized for its coordinated and innovative approach to healthcare. This month, Cooper begins offering South Jersey residents the opportunity to join Direct Primary Care, a program that broadens and personalizes the healthcare services they receive.

At its core, this membership-based model gives patients expanded access to their doctor and a more intensive level of care.  

We spoke with two new family practitioners at Cooper to get their perspective on the new healthcare model.

James Runfola, MD and Leonard Ridilla, MD have about 50 combined years of experience treating patients in South Jersey. They ran a joint private practice for nearly 30 years, providing the Direct Primary Care model for the last 5. 

Leonard Ridilla, MD

Q: What are the benefits of the Direct Primary Care model?

Dr. Runfola: The prime benefit is time. Because we see fewer patients per day and aren’t spending additional time with administrative issues, we can address every concern a patient has. In a normal, 10-minute office visit, there is no time to discuss other items. Rather than seeing up to 35 patients per day, in the Direct Primary Care model, the average is about 8, which allows the physician time to engage with each patient and really listen to them. 

Dr. Ridilla: Today, it’s common to wait weeks to see a doctor and then, depending on the practice, you may not even know who you see. Where else can you have direct contact with your physician – someone who knows you? My patients have my cell number and, because our patients have greater access to us and because they see one physician consistently, they know us. 

Q: What type of patients will benefit most from Direct Primary Care?

Dr. Runfola: Not all patients want or need the same level of attention from their family practitioner, but all of them value the relationship they have built with their doctor, and they understand their care more completely. 

Our DPC patients have increased comfort levels. I know about their lives outside the office and I know their lives affect how they’re able to care for themselves. We discuss their concerns until they have no questions left. This relationship is critical in getting patients to trust that your advice is going to help them. 

Dr. Ridilla: All types of patients will find this model beneficial, from someone with many medical needs to someone who simply wants the assurance of knowing and trusting their physician. Just as you choose a financial adviser and expect that person to be with you for a long time, I am your medical adviser for life. We are proactive and available. 

James Runfola, MD

Q: Patients often need help  navigating the medical system. Does Direct Primary Care help with that?

Dr. Runfola: In family medicine, we follow a bio-psycho-social approach, meaning all physical problems are tied with emotional and mental and social/cultural/family context. So we’re not addressing only someone’s anxiety or stress, for example. By knowing about the patient more completely, and having more time, we can investigate and discuss root causes of the anxiety. They may not realize that stresses within the family can cause medical issues.

Dr. Ridilla: When a specialist is needed, I can spend the time necessary to communicate more completely with them as well as the patient. I can also explain fully what test results mean, for example, which often has been delegated to an assistant. DPC creates an efficiency of coordination and a team approach to patient care.

Q: How do DPC physicians help patients stay healthy?

Dr. Runfola: Preventive health monitoring often falls through the cracks, and with the benefit of added time, we can help make sure patients are up to date with this testing, which helps prevent more serious diseases and issues in the future.

We can spend extensive time with a patient with diabetes, for example, discuss diet plans, review sugar logs, and deal with issues ourselves that previously may have been sent to a specialist. 

Dr. Ridilla: Patients take ownership of their health and well-being, becoming their own advocate, making that investment in their lives. We are there to guide and support them in making healthy lifestyle choices and in determining treatment plans together when needed.

Dr. Runfola and Dr. Ridilla: Were excited to join Cooper, a healthcare system completely committed to care and active in helping South Jersey improve the health of its people.