Carla Pennington

Years ago, people who drove sports cars would rave about their tight, responsive rack-and-pinion steering, compared to the loose, sloppy handling common on standard passenger cars.

For Carla Pennington of Altoona, that contrast is analogous to the one between the responsive new-model primary care physician practice she recently began to patronize and the traditional practice she has abandoned.

Hampton Medical Direct Primary Care — which patients access through monthly subscription payments, rather than insurance to cover fees for service — provides easier, more frequent, more varied and more direct interaction with the doctor, quicker turnaround for appointments and testing and more flexibility with scheduling, according to Pennington.

It’s also less expensive for patients frequently in need of care or support, she said.

During a recent office visit to Hampton Medical, Pennington, 49, found she needed a CAT scan, which Dr. Sean Hampton authorized the next day, Pennington said. It was scheduled the following day, and the day after that, she got the results, she said.

At the practice she formerly patronized, there would have been more calls back and forth and likely “lots of days” gone by, she said.

With the old practice model, when she got a sinus infection, she’d go to the doctor, remit her insurance co-pay, obtain an antibiotic prescription, go home and, if she didn’t feel better in a few days, call back — and, possibly after a delay of a day or two, be summoned for another in-person appointment, which was not always easy to get right away, not always during a time that aligned with her work schedule and not always with an actual doctor. There was also another co-pay.

With Hampton Medical, the followups are often done by phone, text or email, without delays, with interactions directly with the doctor and with no additional cost to the $65 a month subscription fee.

“There’s more communication, more openness — and not so much distance,” Pennington said. “This model is much more effective,.”

It’s especially good for people who are frequently sick or who have chronic or recurring conditions like diabetes, congestive heart failure or blood clots, with need for frequent interaction with their primary care doctors, Pennington said.

It wouldn’t make sense, however, for people like her husband, who only needs to go to the doctor a couple times a year, she said.