The California Cure Sickday Medical House Calls: Doctor, Anyone?

Imagine it’s a Friday night and your child has a sudden fever. Your doctor isn’t available, and the prospect of schlepping over to the hospital to wait in the ER is daunting—not to mention expensive—but what’s the alternative?

Angelenos might soon join New Yorkers in actually having a remedy to that scenario: Sickday Medical House Calls. Begun in Manhattan eight years ago by Naomi Friedman, a licensed physician’s assistant who worked in hospitals and primary care private practice for a decade before launching Sickday, the service aims to fill the gap in the current health-care landscape, falling between high-priced concierge attention and urgent-care centers, where the price is lower but follow-up nonexistent.

Chief marketing officer Kate Dussault explains that Sickday clients schedule medical attention in the comfort of their homes, offices or hotel rooms. Doctors or physician associates spend an average of 30–40 minutes with each patient to care for any condition that requires serious medical evaluation—for example, gastroenteritis, bronchitis, respiratory infections and injuries requiring sutures.

A follow-up phone call is included, and the service provides referrals to health-care specialists as needed. Sickday house calls are a flat rate of $250 in New York City and are expected to be in that range in Los Angeles.

Dussault expects Sickday to begin service in L.A. sometime in 2010, following the launch of a new program in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood aimed at the un- and underinsured, offering a flat-fee $75 house call with a physician associate. While Sickday is a for-profit company, Dussault says, “We support reform and are committed to making whatever difference we can until relief comes for all.”

Says founder Naomi Friedman: “If you’re looking to make gross profits, get in the widget business and stay out of health care. Lives depend on it.” —Samantha Dunn