..Lese Dunton..

Interview with Naomi Friedman, Founder of Sickday

One of the worst parts about getting sick is trying to get an appointment with a doctor quickly, or even worse, facing the dreaded, often nightmarish emergency room.

Physician Associate, Naomi Friedman thought of a solution -- old-fashioned house calls! Don't leave your bed. Just pick up the phone. In December, 2005 she expanded into "Sickday Medical House Calls." All types of New Yorkers love it, and so do vistors to the city. Word of mouth is deeply grateful. Press coverage is enthusiastic; The New York Times even called Ms. Friedman "an angel of mercy."

Sickday patients receive same-day appointments in the comfort of their home, office, or hotel room. Available from 6:00 am to 11:00 pm, Physician Associates (PA's) spend an average of 30-40 minutes with each patient. They are licensed medical practitioners, trained to evaluate, diagnose, and treat illnesses using the same medical model as physicians. They practice medicine with the supervision of a licensed physician and are held to the same medical standards. The physician is always available for consultation if necessary.

Lese Dunton: Is this a new trend?

Naomi Friedman: Well, I think Sickday is leading a movement, filling a need to personalize care in an environment of their choice. The point of care is changing. People want to be seen in their own environment.

We are not trying to re-create an emergency room. We do not bring EKG's or start IV's. We are really affordable at a fixed price of $250 per vist, with no hidden fees, and many health insurances cover the service.

We give the patient the first dose of the antibiotic, as necessary, and a follow-up for every patient the next day to make sure they're getting better.

LD: What do you love about your work? What is it that makes it great?

NF: Well, I think after many years of working at doctor's offices and in hospital settings, I found taking care of patients that way was very impersonal. This is a much more personal setting. I find that patients are more open to speaking about their medical problems in their own environment, so I get a real good sense of their needs. In an office, time spent with a patient is really limited to about 10 minutes -- and in this setting we really spend at least 30-40 minutes.

I think it's much more personable, and the patients love it.

LD: What gave you the idea to do it?

NF: Well, six years ago when I thought of it, literally people said, "Oh no, patients won't take to it." I just had a gut feeling about it, that patients would love the personal attention and quality time spent. So I just went with it, and have been doing it close to six years. I've found that patients love the experience. They're genuinely excited about having someone treat them in their home, office or hotel. I see the gratitude every day.

After six years, people are still staying to me, "Wow, you really do house calls?...What a great idea!" I genuinely love the experience and, more importantly, the patient loves it, too.

LD: And you're going nationwide? How does that work?

NF: We are looking for primary care physicians who have private practices and are looking to create adjunct house call practices.

LD: How many people are involved with Sickday?

NF: We have six doctors and four PA's. Basically, it's neighborhood practices with adjunct house call practices.

LD: What's been the most gratifying? Was there one moment or day that you had that just really sticks in your mind as being wonderful?

NF: I think every day is so...there's nothing consistent. It's so different every day. I never know what to expect. Every day is like, how many am I going to see today? What kind of patients are there going to be? It's a very different experience than them coming to the office.

I worked for five years in an office setting and it was just so overwhelming. The amount of patients that you see, the amount of interruptions that they have with the patients -- you cannot give them that quality time, quality personal attention that they so want. With this, I have all the time in the world; there are no interruptions, except the patient's interruptions. If their phone rings, it's different than if my phone rings. So it's really, really a very rewarding experience.

LD: That's wonderful. Now if people want to know more about it, they can go to the website? (sickdayhousecalls.com)

NF: Absolutely. Or call. We're always a phone call away. That's what we tell our patients when we see them. They never have a question that they can't call us. We'll always be there to talk with them or give them any advice, even on the phone. That number is 212.327.1900.

I really think that Sickday is about personal care, in a personal setting. That's really what this is all about. And quality care, and time spent with the patient, giving them more than 10 minutes of your time.

LD: I think it's fantastic. I know you've helped so many people.

NF: I appreciate that. I really do.

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