When Dr. Natasha Diaz, who opened Roots Health DPC on Madison Street in August, went to medical school at the University of Illinois, she did it to fix what she saw as a broken medical system.
She envisioned a system with transparent pricing that patients knew about before they received services, a system in which people had direct access to their doctors, not just the front desk.
She imagined patients creating a relationship with their primary care physicians, establishing trust over years, and doctors who could see patients for same-day visits, so rushing to an urgent care center where you might see a doctor you’ve never met before wouldn’t be necessary.
She didn’t want to see waiting rooms filled with patients flipping through magazines, checking the time every five minutes. In fact, she didn’t want patients to have to wait at all.
Mostly, Diaz wanted personalized, affordable care for patients with no hidden prices.
“There should never be the incentive not to get the care you need because it costs too much,” she said.
Consumers often don’t make informed decisions when it comes to medical care, said Diaz, because they don’t have all the information. They don’t have access to pricing, for example. And oftentimes, many large medical corporations are managed by businesspeople who might have MBAs but don’t have medical degrees.
“They didn’t take the oath I took when I became a physician,” she said. “They are trained to care about profit most of all. But in medicine, profit can’t come before patient care.”
Her office at 7314 Madison St. (accessible through the back, where parking is available) has natural light and a gigantic rainbow mural on the wall. There are toys for kids — in fact, you can bring your whole family to your appointment, if you wish.
Diaz’s practice follows the Direct Primary Care (DPC) model, a growing trend in the medical field. In the DPC model, there’s a flat membership fee. At Roots, it’s $78 per person, and there are family and children’s rates available. That membership includes no-fee services and visits, plus being able to contact Diaz directly.
Labs and some procedures come at additional expense, but since there is no third-party billing, the costs are low. At Roots, a thyroid blood test will run you only $5.75, as opposed to the retail cost of $65. To test your cholesterol, it’s $3.50.
Diaz prescribes and dispenses medication too, and the cost is low. Ninety tabs of Wellbutrin, for example, only costs $15 at her office, as opposed to the retail price of $123.37
It might seem like an ideal service for someone without insurance. But Diaz said many of her patients have insurance. They see her because they like the personal care she provides, the same-day appointments, the fact that they can call her directly and don’t have to wait.
“Health-related questions should be answered right away,” she said.
Patients are never scheduled to overlap, so a patient or family will be the only ones in the office at one time.
Diaz likes to know her patients well because a strong relationship between doctor and patient is at the very heart of good medicine.
“It improves the quality of care and changes and alters the course of treatment and, ultimately, health,” she said.
While she is a general practitioner and sees men and women of all ages, she considers women’s health her specialization, and she loves families.
“I like to see people grow up,” Diaz said.
As a mother herself — she has three sons — she understands the demands placed on working parents, which is another motivation to make health care as stress-free as possible.
“I get how busy people are,” she said.
Diaz lived in Forest Park while she attended medical school at the U. of I. She moved to California for her residency and worked there for a few years before returning to Forest Park, where she and her husband bought a two-flat they still own, though her family now resides in River Forest.
She opened her practice in August, and it felt, she said, like “coming full circle.” She’d gone into medical school wanting to fix a broken system. She worked in that system for years, and finally was ready to open a practice based on a model she believes in.
“My individual actions can make a difference in people’s lives,” she said. “It feels like this is my purpose.”
And when it comes to making change, she said, “Let it begin with me.”