New York, NY—It’s been two months since the Bethany Medical Clinic started offering COVID-19 tests to various employers in New York City, and according to its founder, the clinic has been expanding its testing to one new client per week.
Shirin Peters, M.D. founded Bethany Medical Clinic nine years ago because she saw a need to fill a gap in the primary care marketplace. She’s originally from England, raised by her grandmother who she says was obsessed with good health and staying well. It seems to have paid dividends as her grandmother recently turned 100 years old.
So, when Peters moved to New York to attend medical school, she said she found it very challenging to connect with a primary care team that understood the needs of New Yorkers and young working people.
“I found it really hard to find care that was fully covered by insurance, like evening and weekend appointments outside of regular work hours. I had a pretty tough schedule and I couldn’t just take time off when I was training,” said Peters.
She added, “Basically, I was looking for convenient and efficient care, and also care that was thorough and complete.”
She figured if she couldn’t find the type of primary care she required, then she was determined to open her own practice. She believes that physician-led practices can offer better care because they understand patients’ expectations and needs.
“I think when physicians are involved in making those practice decisions there are better care outcomes compared to a bureaucrat being involved in the decision. I’ve always been kind of leaning in that direction, I think primary care was just a good fit for me,” Peters said.
The clinic is certainly meeting a need with employers, especially as COVID-19 rates have been trending upward, compared to the summer.
During the summer, less than 0.5 percent of New Yorkers being tested for COVID-19 tested positive for the virus. But since September, it has risen to about three to five percent of people testing positive after being tested.
Peters said that the rate of employees testing positive who are tested by the clinic is also about three percent.
“For the whole state, three to five percent of people being tested are testing positive. At the clinic, we’re only testing people who are asymptomatic carriers, who don’t have any symptoms. We’re looking for people who might be spreaders and it’s on the low end of that range but three percent is a jump up from the 0.5 percent we were seeing.”
She added, “Testing, I think, plays just a crucial role in identifying the people who have it and don’t know they have it and are going to spread it to other people because they don’t know they have it.”
The clinic offers two kinds of tests—the oropharyngeal swab test to check for active cases of COVID, and the Abbott Diagnostics IgG antibody test to see if a patient’s body developed the antibodies necessary to protect against the virus.
As noted, the clinic has been growing its testing business by acquiring one new client per week. Most times, the clinic’s providers will go to an employer’s location, which offers a lot of convenience and gets everyone to comply. But for employers that can’t afford the on-site testing, there’s the option of employees to make appointments at the clinic. And in either setting, the testing is covered by insurance.
Nine years after starting the Bethany Medical Center, Peters reveres her 100-year grandmother for instilling the values of healthy eating and self-care.
“She used to cut out health articles from the newspaper. She was really into eating whole, fresh foods before it was trendy and became a movement. She was a big influence,” said Peters.
She’s had a lot of challenges to overcome during that time, but she’s been heartened by her hard-working team.
“I’m really lucky to work with the people I work with, and we like the fact that we are young and dynamic.”