Meet Ray Zakhari, NP – Improving healthcare for New Yorkers one person at a time

Ray Zakhari entering taxi

Convenient, confidential and delivered to your door — healthcare the way you prescribe it.

Ray ZakhariHaving worked within the healthcare system for many years, Ray Zakhari is among those who are keenly aware of its limitations. But unlike most, he decided to do something about it – in his own direct way.

Motivated by a desire to make it easier (and more pleasant) for his fellow New Yorkers to access health care, he started Metro Medical Direct in 2009 – providing one of the few opportunities to have skilled primary care delivered directly to your home or office.

Whether it’s for an annual physical, an acute illness such as the flu or for long-term disease management, Metro Medical Direct understands that a visit to the doctor’s office (or even worse, emergency room) can be at best inconvenient and sometimes downright unpleasant.

Medical care without the hassles

Ray Zakhari’s view of the healthcare system is very much from the inside. He is a nurse practitioner who is board certified in Adult and Adolescent Health, Family Practice, and Family Psychiatry. By day he’s on the staff of New York Presbyterian Hospital- Weill Cornell/ Payne Whitney Clinic taking care of patients as a “hospitalist.”

It’s on evenings and weekends that he makes his rounds among savvy New Yorkers who are willing to pay a little extra to avoid the hassles of waiting rooms, on-hold calls and voicemail, a role he sometimes refers to as a “residentialist.”

Men — a medically underserved population

Ray Zakhari has identified what he believes is one of the most medically underserved populations in healthcare: men. For many reasons, longevity tables and disease statistics indicate that men would benefit from more contact with their healthcare providers. Various studies show that men are far less likely to seek medical help than women.

They tend to get chronic diseases sooner and die from them sooner. They are more likely to be embarrassed about personal issues and more reluctant to seek medical help. As part of its mission, Metro Medical Direct sets out to remove the barriers so men become more willing to seek help. The idea is to make it more convenient and take away as much as possible any concerns about privacy or potential embarrassment.

Ray Zakhari in Air Force uniformHaving been in the field for many years, including a tour of duty with the Air Force in Iraq, the founder of the Metro Medical Direct practice is informed by a “seen it all” perspective that makes it easier for patients to relax and well, feel “at home.” That can be a major factor in getting help at the outset of trouble, rather than waiting until things get more complicated.

Hypertension, depression and diabetes are a few of the conditions that go along with the fast pace and candle-burning-at-both-ends nature of city life. But there are a number of other conditions that men are reluctant to think about, let alone talk about, including sexual dysfunction, low testosterone and chronic prostatitis.

Understanding that men tend to be more guarded and defensive in traditional healthcare visits, the Metro Medical Direct approach is to create a non-judgmental, open environment where issues can be explored and a positive course of action planned.

The annual physical as it should be

When it comes to the annual physical, the policy of Metro Medical Direct is to offer a more thorough approach than is normally the case. “Coming to a physical exam should be an empowering, educational experience,” according to Ray Zakhari. It’s an opportunity to ask questions and talk about issues of daily life that are critical to maintaining health. No paper gowns, no waiting room, no front office staff to deal with and complete confidentiality are all designed to make the experience a relaxed and positive one.

Ray Zakhari with therapy dogThe Metro Medical Direct physical is more thorough than most, with more time spent on lifestyle and getting to know the patient as a whole person. Unlike many medical practices that operate in a system that encourages them to see patients as disease entities, the Metro Medical approach is to look beyond the immediate concerns: “Taking the time to know patients when they’re well and healthy makes for a much more well-informed treatment plan when something goes wrong.”

Mr. Zakhari is a strong advocate for patient-centered care – something that is more often the ideal than actual practice. His advice is for patients to see healthcare providers as consultants and to hold them to the same high standards of any trusted consultant. It’s okay to ask questions and to seek a second opinion when appropriate. Or when treatment plans become problematic, ask if there are alternative approaches or other options. Nurses should be held to an equally high standard – they can and should play an important role as patient advocates and key members of the healthcare team.

In-home psychiatric care – that’s no delusion

With a board certification in family psychiatry, Mr. Zakhari offers a rare opportunity for individuals to get treatment for mental health issues in the privacy of their homes. Given the limited availability of psychiatrists and other mental health care providers, it can be difficult to get any appointment on a timely basis – let alone “at home” care.

As many as 20 percent of Americans have a diagnosable mental illness at some time in their lives, but the number who seek or get treatment is a small fraction of the total. Anything that makes it more accessible is a step forward.

Ray Zakhari and familyIn his work treating mental health issues, Mr. Zakhari stresses the importance of family and relationships in keeping a person’s life in balance. Many illnesses, if not most, have a psychological component that affects how well they can be managed. Ray Zakhari readily points out that his ability to keep the work schedule he maintains is helped by the close family life he shares with his wife and two children. “For me,” he says, “a good place to relieve stress is in the kitchen.”

High touch and high tech

Adding to the convenience factor, Metro Medical Direct uses the latest technology in its practice, including a complete array of telemedicine services. If desired, bi-directional video conferencing makes it possible to create a virtual face-to-face office visit via your computer, tablet or smartphone. Electronic medical records, a patient portal for access to health information and electronic prescription requests are all part of normal practice routine.

Ray Zakhari sums up his philosophy of health care by saying “The purpose of health care is to help people live well.”

It’s a simple and straightforward philosophy and by creating Metro Medical Direct he puts that philosophy into practice on a daily basis. For Metropolitan Men (and women) it can be a welcome prescription for making urban life a little easier and a lot healthier.

For more information on Ray Zakhari or his practice, contact Metro Medical Direct.