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Exploring Life & Business with Dr. Melissa Boylan of Noreta Family Medicine

Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Melissa Boylan. 

Hi Dr. Boylan, so excited to have you with us today. What can you tell us about your story?
When I chose family medicine as my specialty in medical school, I pictured myself developing meaningful long-term relationships with people of all ages. However, slightly more than ten years later, I was well into my career as a family physician and felt the medical school vision of what I expected from my career slipping away. I was unhappy with the increasing load of non-patient-oriented tasks I was assigned. My patients were frustrated with not being able to make timely appointments when they needed to be seen. Both my patients and I were becoming disillusioned by the increasing complexity and cost of the healthcare system. I felt stuck and began searching for new job opportunities. Soon after, I came across Direct Primary Care (DPC). DPC is a model of caring for patients that seemed to solve most of the frustrations of the traditional healthcare system. DPC emphasizes transparency and affordability in pricing, simplicity in the business model, and good service to patients. I was hooked! 

Also, around this time, my alma mater, the University of Notre Dame, sent out an invitation for a startup business competition, called the McCloskey Competition. The competition required a video pitch and a business plan, which happened to fit the timeline of opening my very own DPC office perfectly! I entered the competition which kept me on track and moving forward towards my goal. I then contacted the South Carolina Small Business Development Center, and my consultant spent many hours helping me write my business plan and calculate financial projections. 

After 9 months of planning, I opened Noreta Family Medicine in July 2020. Noreta delivers essential primary care services directly to patients for a monthly subscription fee, instead of filing health insurance claims. This revolutionary model of care shows that complex modern medicine can be delivered in a simple and transparent way, with good customer service. You don’t use car insurance to fill up your gas tank or change a flat tire, you use it when you have a major expense. Health insurance can be used in the same way—not for every single expense you have, just for those unexpected and/or high-priced expenses, like a hospitalization, ER visit, or surgery. 

I can say that this has been the best decision I have made in my career so far. I am happier, my patients are healthier and happier, and my office allows me to care for people from diverse backgrounds. I love advocating for change to improve our nation’s broken healthcare system. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Two weeks before my last day at my previous job, the world shut down due to COVID-19. This affected every aspect of my plans – Were my financial projections still valid? Would I be able to complete all of the administrative paperwork? Would I be able to meet with patients in person? Thankfully, the world seemed able to adapt during quarantine, and I was able to get all of the administrative tasks done. Thanks to the support of my patients, I met my financial projections for Year 1. I also discovered that my small office was a perfect environment to safely see patients in person during the pandemic. 

Another obstacle was that I did not learn how to be an entrepreneur or how to run a practice while I was in training — most physicians are now employed by larger healthcare systems instead of owning their own practice. This knowledge gap scared me and kept me from seriously considering the idea of opening my own practice for several years. However, my mentors helped me realize that I did not need a vast expanse of business knowledge to get my company off the ground — learning on the job is ok! Also, although I spend more time on tasks related to my job than I did at my previous job, the sense of ownership I feel and variety of the tasks I do makes my work as a small business owner enjoyable and exciting. 

Appreciate you sharing that. What should we know about Noreta Family Medicine?
How does Noreta Family Medicine, a DPC practice, work and how is it different? A patient signs up with the practice and pays an affordable monthly fee. They do not pay anything else (no copay and no bills afterwards) when they see me, and there is no limit on how often someone can see me. I offer extended appointments which average 60 minutes per visit and easy access. When patients call, I answer, which usually leaves the other party stunned for a few seconds! There is no navigating a phone tree or playing a game of telephone with multiple staff members. I offer 24/7 access for urgent concerns or questions. My office is warm and welcoming, which is in direct contrast to the traditional sterile atmosphere that most doctor’s offices provide. I also dispense many medicines for low prices, and my labs cost on average 90% less than what insurance companies are typically billed. I feel like a modern-day Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Without the dictated constraints of insurance companies, I can take care of my patients in the setting that suits them best – in their home, via video chats, via a phone call, or of course, in person. Noreta Family Medicine turns assembly-line medical care into what medicine is meant to be, focused on providing good service and care to all members of the community. 

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
First, I have to thank my husband for his steadfast support in opening Noreta Family Medicine. Never did he question me or give me any reason to doubt myself or my goal, even when times were tough. Without his support, I simply would not have been able to do this. 

Second only to my husband, Allen Brown at the Columbia Area Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has been my cheerleader, supporter, and mentor. He spent hours teaching me what a business plan is, how to put it together, and then helping me with the nuts and bolts of opening a business. I am very thankful for his dedication and belief in me as an entrepreneur! 

Dom Gatto, founder of AMG Development, and Dean Vandelay, a friend and local IT Program Manager, provided key support for me during the McCloskey Competition. 

Pricing:

  • $70/month/adult
  • $25/month/child with an adult membership
  • One-time $100 registration fee
  • Up to 98% cost savings on lab tests
  • An average of 50% cost savings on prescription medications

Contact Info:

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1 Comment

  1. Edward M Best

    January 25, 2022 at 3:45 pm

    This is a great practice and a life saver for me. There is peace of mind in knowing that if I need to talk with a doctor she is there and always call back, which is not the way it works with other providers.
    Great way to stay healthy. I am very pleased.

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