Do doctors make house calls? It might be hard to imagine, but before the 1960s, doctors often visited their patients at home, making house calls for regular check-ups and for illnesses or injuries. Yes, they came to your home when you felt sick.
What a luxury to have to have a doctor make a house call – instead of dragging yourself out of bed, spending the time, energy, and money traveling to the doctor’s office or clinic.
And when you’re feeling lousy, getting to the doctor or clinic can seem overwhelming. Moreover, if you are very ill and/or elderly, going out for medical care can be close to impossible.
When did doctors stop making house calls?
Unfortunately, regular house calls went by the wayside in the 1960s. During this period, doctors started to focus on economic efficiency, inspiring a change to seeing patients in their offices. Additionally, in the 1960s, insurance plans became more commonplace, and the doctor-patient relationship moved from personal to more business-like.
Good news – house calls are back!
The return of house calls, as part of home-based care, is good for patients, and it’s good for our collective wallets.
Why would a doctor make a house call?
In general, there are two types of situations in which people would want, or need, a house call:
For very ill or elderly patients.
The medical world is increasingly providing home-based care for those who are old and very ill. Doctors and other specialists make house calls to care for patients in an effort to keep these patients out of hospitals while keeping them as healthy as possible. These house calls are often a part of a wider home-based care program that can also include remote health monitoring and palliative care.
For convenience and ease.
In addition to house calls for those who are elderly or very ill, there is also movement in our new “service economy” to provide a house call to anyone who wants one. Whether you are at home feeling too sick to venture out, or you are out-of-town, you might find a doctor who can visit you at home – or even in your hotel!
House calls help patients.
Certainly, for convenience, house calls can’t be beat. But there are also health and financial benefits of house calls (as part of home-based care programs).
For “high risk” patients – older and with multiple co-morbidities – house calls can provide a better level of care for patients. For instance, hospitalization rates dropped significantly for those enrolled in a home-based care program.
Additionally, researchers found that house calls reduced healthcare spending and hospitalizations, since the medical teams were able to better monitor high-risk patients, and improve care coordination among multiple healthcare professionals. Study lead Glenn Melnick reports that “monitoring and coordination keeps them out of the emergency room and hospitals as inpatients.”
Another study of VA and Medicare patients found a 25% reduction in hospital admissions, a 36% reduction in hospital days, and a 13% reduction in combined costs for those in a home-based care program.
Importantly, these programs did not rely exclusively on doctors for home-based care. Many types of healthcare professionals visited patients at home, including nurse practitioners, nurses, physical therapists, dietitians, rehabilitation therapists, and mental health providers.
It’s also worth noting that the savings identified in these studies don’t include money that patients and families can save with home-based care, including travel expenses such as gas and parking. And house calls can eliminate the need for family members to take time off from work to take their loved one to the doctor!
How to find a doctor who makes house calls?
For ongoing home-based care.
If you, or a loved one, are elderly and/or very sick, it’s great to use a doctor who can provide home-based care.
Start the process by asking your doctor if he/she makes house calls. If your doctor can’t make house calls, ask for a referral to a practice, program or hospital that can. You can also search online – see below for suggestions.
For occasional house calls.
On the other hand, if you want an occasional home visit for convenience, or if you are away from home, you can search online (see below) to find a doctor who will come to your home, hotel, or other location. Additionally, if you’re traveling, you can also ask the hotel if they have connections to doctors who make house calls for hotel guests.
Searching online for home-based care.
Whether you are looking for an ongoing relationship, or need a one-time visit, you might find what you’re looking for online. Search for “house call doctor” plus your location to find doctors that provide home-based care in your area.
Unsurprisingly, as home-based care increases, companies have formed to provide home-based care. Some of these companies operate in one geographic region, while others, like those below, operate in multiple US states.
Landmark Health provides home-based care for complex, chronic patients in 18 states, and Visiting Physicians Associates provides home-based care for elderly and other adult patients with complex health needs in 11 states.
Additionally, Heal provides house calls for patients in 9 states, for ongoing needs or for one-time urgent care visits.
Importantly, note that your insurance policy may not cover home visits. Therefore, I suggest you ask about costs and coverage before you schedule your appointment.
House calls have some limitations.
It’s important to understand that using a doctor who makes house calls is not a substitute for emergency care. If you need emergency care, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
And, in general, doctors making house calls do not bring heavy and/or complex equipment with them. Although surprisingly, there are companies that have mobile vans that can provide x-ray and ultrasound services for patients at home, including Visiting Physicians Associates.
And of course, doctors providing home-based care cannot perform surgery and other procedures that require specialized expertise.
What about virtual visits?
If you can’t arrange a home visit, consider a virtual appointment. In telemedicine appointments, you speak with your doctor over a voice or video call. Telemedicine appointments soared in popularity as doctors and patients stay home to avoid COVID-19. However, there are some circumstances that benefit from in-person appointments. For more information, read The Pros and Cons of Telemedicine.
No matter where you see your doctor(s), being an engaged patient can help you get the best care and outcome. To learn more, read these posts:
- Understanding Medical Information Is Harder Than Most Realize.
- 10 Tips for a Better Medical Appointment.
- 10 Tips to Communicate Better with Doctors.
- 6 Tips to Better Manage Your Care.
- What is the Best Time of Day for Medical Care?
- How Can You Get the Best Healthcare? Actively Participate!