You might spot Dr. Sanjeet Baidwan running around New York City with her old school doctor’s valise—what she calls her clinic-in-a-bag—making house calls like a small-town family practitioner. She founded I.M.Well Medical in 2020 to provide primary and urgent care in the comfort of a patient’s home, office, or hotel.
I.M. Well is part of a growing cohort of start-ups designed to make it easier to access healthcare, with or without insurance, if you have the money to pay out of pocket or in addition to your insurance premiums and co-pays. For many, the convenience is worth the extra cost—even in the best of times, finding a primary care doctor you like who is available for appointments without two months notice, spends more than five minutes with you, and takes your insurance, is often a real challenge. The Kafkaesque experience of trying to get a Covid test or navigating the vaccination roll out, has further underscored just how broken the American system is, and doctors and entrepreneurs like Baidwan are saying, We can find a better way.
“I was a little disillusioned with insurance and our current healthcare system,” Baidwan says. “I was never going to be the doctor that could do an appointment in 15 minutes. I need more time. I need more connection.” With I.M.Well Medical, she talks to patients via phone, text and video, or goes to their homes for appointments.
Formerly the Chief Resident for Advocacy and Community Health at Yale University School of Medicine, and the National Medical Director for Complex Care at Oscar Health, she has experience working within the system that often fails patients’ routine needs. “Basically, direct primary care offers me that ability to have autonomy and agency over my practice and therefore have a deeper connection and communication with my patients,” she says.
To make this work, Baidwan does not accept insurance unless a patient is in hospice care, or officially homebound. “Insurance is what regulates those very short appointments,” she says. “Doctors want to spend more time with patients.” Baidwan’s fees start at $325 for a Covid consult, $425 for a check-up and $575 for urgent care.
The way she practices is too time-consuming to be practical or cost-efficient for every doctor, but the pandemic has massively boosted the use of telemedicine and video exams, which start-ups like Heal are coupling with house calls in an attempt to make preventative and acute care more accessible, and more affordable. One Medical, which charges a $199 yearly membership fee, combines primary care, urgent care, and some specialist services like dermatology in convenient clinics. In New York City their biggest service, other than the ability to book online, may simply taking your insurance and saving you the many hours it takes to find the providers you need.
In some ways One Medical model is the opposite of Baidwan’s—members have easy access to care, but it’s not particularly intimate care. Neither out-of-pocket house calls nor a $200 premium that makes your insurance work a little better does anything for folks who are struggling to afford insurance at all, or to address systemic health care disparities. What they do is make care easier to access for some patients, which is depressingly notable.
Currently, many of Baidwan’s patients are families dealing with school Covid tests, patients who are repatriating back to their countries and need Covid tests, and older patients with chronic diseases who are scared to keep their in-person appointments. For Covid patients, she checks oxygen saturation and respiratory status, helps to treat symptoms and makes the call whether a patient is safe at home or not. If they need to escalate care, Baidwan can help arrange a patient to get to a hospital.
Beyond Covid-related calls, Baidwan sees patients for yearly checkups, blood draws, the flu, prescriptions, and pre-travel consult with the appropriate vaccines. She can even cure a hangover with an IV and anti-nausea medication, if you’re in a bad way. “Generally speaking, anything that can be done in a clinic, more likely than not, I can do at your house,” Baidwan says.
Baidwan also offers a limited number of Seva appointments for patients in need. “Seva means service in Hindi and Punjabi, which is where my parents are from,” she explains. She built capacity for reduced-price care into her company, particularly for patients with chronic diseases like diabetes or hypertension who would benefit from working closely with a doctor, but cannot afford it. “I believe that healthcare is a right,” she says. “I believe everyone should have access to it.”
I.M. Well Medical, Dr. Sanjeet Baidwan: Direct primary and urgent care directly to your home, text, call and video appointments. Does not take insurance. House call prices: $325 for a Covid consult, $425 for a check-up and $575 for urgent care.
One Medical Center: Membership primary care, $199 membership includes 24/7 virtual care and same-day appointments at one of their many offices around the city. Takes most insurance.
Heal: Appointments are covered by most insurances. Without insurance, appointments are $79 for telemedicine or $159 if a house call is needed.
NYC Care: If you don’t have access to health insurance or cannot afford health insurance, New York City has a program called NYC Care with no monthly premium, and prices that reflect your income.
Dntl Bar: Walk-in dental clinic. Pay $200 upfront and then $25 each month or $425 total which includes two cleanings, a straightening evaluation and 10% off all dental work.
NYU Dentistry Brooklyn Patient Care: Visit this new office at City Point for discounted dental work by dental students.
🐱Vinegar Hill Veterinary Group:Makes pet house calls all over Brooklyn and Manhattan.