I’m one of those people who is seemingly always sick. I’ve tried everything: I upped my intake of vitamin C, I use hand sanitizer like it’s a religion, I get my flu shot every year. But no matter what I try, I can’t help it. I live in New York City, where just one subway ride pretty much guarantees you’re catching something. And it’s not just that: My office is an open concept (which means my team can brainstorm freely — and pass colds from person to person freely), my schedule offers very little time for self-care, and I’m rarely exposed to fresh (read: pollutant-free) air. As soon as I start to feel a tickle in my throat, I know doomsday is knocking on my door.
The worst part is, getting an appointment with a good doctor often feels harder than getting tickets to a certain Broadway musical about our Founding Fathers. Not only is it a struggle to find one that takes my insurance and specializes in what I’m actually looking for, but finding someone that’s available within a matter of days (not months, thank you very much) is practically impossible. In the past, the stress of getting an appointment has led me to ignore my problems and avoid doctors entirely. At the end of the day, is it really worth all the hassle?
So when I heard about One Medical — a "modern, tech-enabled primary care practice" that offers access to hundreds of premier doctors with luxury offices across nine cities, not to mention visits that can be arranged same day, next day, weeks in advance, and instantly via its 24/7 app — I was intrigued. Just ahead of flu season, I decided to leave my preconceived notions at the door and see if this surprisingly affordable service could actually help me find a healthier way of living. And just in time, too; I had no clue what issues were about to pop up.
It all started with a few sneezes. It was the end of the workday, and I was getting ready to go out to dinner with my boyfriend — the fancy kind where I actually change outfits and put on a little lipstick. We ended up leaving the restaurant after our appetizers, because within an hour, it had gone from a simple runny nose to a full-on cold. The next morning, I did what any smart, working millennial does: I treated myself with $20 worth of over-the-counter cold meds, a few mugs of highly caffeinated green tea, a mountain of tissues, and a bowl of hot 'n' sour soup from the Chinese restaurant around the corner. In my prior experiences, that was all it took. But this time, I knew it was more than just your run-of-the-mill cold. Given that it was already almost noon, I wasn’t confident about finding a same-day appointment, but One Medical had adamantly touted the service. So I pulled out my phone, opened up the One Medical app, and tested my luck. Much to my surprise, there were several appointments still available with doctors that actually had great credentials and weren’t too far away, so I booked one and got myself out the door.
When I walked through the entrance, I immediately thought I had gone to the wrong place. Perhaps, in my bacteria-ridden stupor, I had pressed the wrong floor on the elevator. But the person at the front desk assured me I was, in fact, where I was intending to be and told me to take a seat in the lobby. This was no normal doctor’s office lobby: no trashy daytime talk show running on a barely functioning TV, no fashion magazines from 2004, and no completely unusable cone-shaped cups by the water cooler. In fact, the water cooler was a stainless-steel beverage dispenser with juice glasses laid out in a row nearby. There were large leather couches surrounded by bookshelves that looked like something out of an Insta-blogger’s dreams. There was a decorative fireplace that held a variety of eclectic knickknacks, like a geometric vase and a piece of driftwood. And there was abstract art on the walls that looked way chicer than what I could even pick out for my own apartment. I took my seat, and within five minutes of checking in, a One Medical provider came to get me.
In short, she assured me I wasn’t dying. But more importantly, she did so by explaining everything in easy-to-understand, jargon-free language in a clean, modern room that felt way nicer than any doctor’s office I had been to before. It was a complete upgrade from my usual experience, sitting in a raggedy gown while a doctor throws pharmaceutical terms around like they’re in an episode of a medical drama. In less than an hour, I saved myself from days of lying around and wallowing in self-pity (which I’m normally accustomed to) — and, much to my surprise, it wasn’t even that stressful at all.
As luck would have it — or maybe it was the doctor’s wise medical advice — my cold cleared up just in time for my Thanksgiving travel plans. I packed my bags and prepared myself for a week away from the chaos of New York City. All was well until midway through the trip, when I woke up to a rash that covered my entire face. I’ve had acne and rosacea for most of my twentysomething years, so I’m used to blemishes popping up with no warning. But this time, hundreds of miles away from my usual derm in the city, there was little that I could do other than panic.
I fought the urge to pick and prod at my skin and took to my One Medical app to try out the “Treat Me Now” service. I snapped a few pics of my red blemishes and added a question for the doc. Within a few minutes, the app connected me to a doctor. In less than 15 minutes, the doc was able to diagnose me (travelling had triggered my rosacea) and write me a prescription that I was able to pick up that day. The best part was, everything was done virtually. I didn’t have to shell out money for an appointment, I didn’t have to wander into a random doctor’s office in a state I don’t call home, I didn’t even have to leave the couch.
As the month was wrapping up, I knew there was one appointment that I had been holding out on for way too long. I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was in high school, and as I’ve gotten older, it’s only gotten worse. My parents have been begging me for months to find a reliable therapist, but, given my skepticism of doctors, I put it on the backburner. I wasn’t convinced that I would be able to find the care I need, and, even if I could, I’m very closed-off when it comes to telling strangers my life problems. But I knew I couldn’t keep letting it all build up inside. Even though One Medical doesn’t have therapists in house, its primary care physicians are trained to treat patients by looking at the big picture when it comes to mental health screenings and offering referrals. So I made an appointment with a family nurse practitioner with a specialty in anxiety, depression, and stress management to see what treatment options were available.
Finding a good therapist is a little like dating. So much time and energy goes into finding “the one,” and after what feels like hundreds of meet-and-greets, it’s easy to just abandon ship altogether. Luckily, One Medical’s doctors take all the stress out of finding the right therapists and treatments, by acting as the perfect matchmaker.
Just like with my first appointment, my name was called within minutes of arrival. As soon as I sat down in the room, the doctor could tell I was nervous. She eased me into chatting with her and didn’t push me too far. Once I explained my situation, she gave me several solutions to choose from. Each step of the conversation, she made sure to talk with care and compassion, always asking if I needed any clarification. I ended up leaving with a referral for a therapist, a list of recommended meditation apps, and a printed article on coping with anxiety. Plus, I found out that One Medical offers weekly group visit programs where providers and health coaches teach health management skills in a comfortable group atmosphere.
My visit wasn’t anything like what I had expected. In prior mental health appointments, I had felt judged by doctors — they’d just assume what I was about to say and give me generic advice. But this was different. If anything, it was the final push I needed to believing that finding mental health care isn’t impossible.
One month ago, if you had asked me when my last doctor visits had been, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. The truth is, ever since I graduated from college and became a “real” adult, my health hasn't been a priority. In my mind, it was all too much of a hassle. Finding a good doctor was stressful, and booking an appointment was inconvenient. But since trying this service, all of my doubts have slowly dissipated: the insecurities, the anxieties, the worries. And the best part — with the annual membership being only $199 in New York City, my notions that premium care would cost me an arm and a leg (literally) disappeared, and I was able to release the underlying stress I had about my personal finances. My health never deserves to be an afterthought. From now on, I’m vowing to give my health priority in my life — so the next time I’m bedridden with a bowl of Chinese delivery soup and a box of tissues, I’ll be ready.