Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

The doctor is (back) in

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Dr. Robert Steves is getting back-to-the-basics of treating patients. His direct primary care practice, The Town Doctor, in Lebanon, will open next Tuesday.

Steves explained that direct primary care is a newer idea amongst family practice physicians that are tired of dealing with insurance companies "telling" them how to treat patients.

"For instance, if I am worried about your appendix, I might order a CAT scan. There have been numerous occasions that another doctor from the insurance company might get on the phone and argue with me (on what could be done instead)," he said. "I'm here with the patient. They are on the telephone somewhere. Direct primary care is 'old fashioned medicine' - it's the doctor and the patient."

Steves noted that studies have shown 85 to 90 percent of a patient's care can be managed by a primary care physician. "If it is 10 o'clock at night and you slice your finger, I'm not going to tell you to go to the ER. I'm going to meet you here in half an hour and sew you up," he said. "There's no additional cost to that. It is part of their membership. It's that simple."

Around-the-clock medical access may seem too good to be true - but that is what Steves is offering in his new venture. Membership fees are based on the patient's age. Folks ages 19 to 44 are $60 a month and kids are $10. A complete list of membership cost can be found online at

"We aren't catering to wealthy individuals," Steves added. "We are making this affordable. Eighty-seven percent of patients with a $5,000 deductible won't reach that in a given year. We are offering 24/7 access to a patient for $720 a year."

Not only is direct primary care affordable, Steves promises patients will have longer appointment time and access to him.

"We are offering 30 minutes for an appointment and we are utilizing technology. If a patient is at-home we are able to teleconference with them and they can use text messaging."

Steves is anticipating 600 patients thru pre-enrollment on opening day. "On opening day we will be one of the busiest direct primary care practices in the United States," he said. "My wife, Jennifer, and nurses have done a great job of talking with folks and getting the word out."

The team worked quickly. They had a 60-day window to request the hospital inform his patients of the new practice.

Steves was terminated without cause by University Medical Center, now known as Tennova, on Dec. 30, 2015.

"At that termination meeting they said they wanted to enforce a non-compete of 10 miles. We had our attorneys look at verbiage in the contract, and since I was terminated without cause, we were released from that non-compete," he said. "We had been looking for some temporary space and had to do that pretty quickly. The hospital took it upon themselves to notify my patients and gave them a list of other primary care doctors.

"State medical boards in Tennessee state that there is a 60-day window where if you find a new space the hospital or wherever you were employed has to reissue that information to my patients."

As of Wednesday, Steves' attorney had not heard a response from the hospital.

Steves has tried to notify the public via social media. Unfortunately, not all of his patients have access to the internet. "We are really pushing the hospital to reissue that letter," he said.

Steves is originally from upstate New York. He is married to Jennifer Steves, a Registered Nurse who will serve as Chief Operating Officer of The Town Doctor. The couple has seven children.

He attended medical school at St. Georges University at Grenada. Steves decided to pursue a career in medicine at a young age.

"My grandmother was passing away at a young age. She was in her early 50s and had a rare form of cancer. I remember the doctors saying there was nothing they could do," he said. "I thought, 'I want to be able to bring hope.'"

And he will - starting Tuesday, March 2, at The Town Doctor in Lebanon.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at

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