Do doctors make house calls? It might be hard to imagine, but there was a time in the US when doctors regularly made house calls. Yes, they came to your home when you felt sick. What a luxury – no dragging yourself (or a loved one) out of bed, spending the time and energy to get to the doctor’s office or hospital, then sitting in the waiting room when what you really want is to be home in bed.
When you’re feeling lousy, getting to the doctor or hospital can seem overwhelming. When you are very ill and/or elderly, going out for medical care can seem downright impossible.
Unfortunately, regular house calls went by the wayside in the 1960s, when doctors worked towards economic efficiency, insurance plans became more commonplace, and the doctor-patient relationship moved from personal to more business-like.
Good news – house calls are making a comeback! It’s good for patients, and it’s good for our collective wallets.
House calls help patients.
A study of “high risk” patients – older and with multiple co-morbidities – found that house calls could provide a better level of care for patients. For instance, hospitalization rates dropped significantly for those enrolled in a home care program.
Additionally, house calls led to a reduction of 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 care program.
Importantly, these programs did not rely exclusively on doctors for home 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 doesn’t include money that patients and families can save with home care, including a reduction in travel expenses such as gas and parking.
Do you have to be old and very sick to take advantage of house calls?
The medical world is moving towards providing more home care for those who are old and very ill. However, there is also movement in our new “service economy” to provide a house call to anyone who wants one.
How do you find a doctor to come to your home?
When you, or a loved one, are elderly and/or very sick, ask your doctor if he/she makes house calls. If he/she doesn’t, ask for a referral to a practice, program or hospital that makes house calls.
If you want a home visit for convenience, or if you are away from home, you can use an app to find a doctor who will come to your home, hotel, or other location. Both Heal and Pager connect you to doctors who travel to patients.
However, note that these services are not available in all locations, and your insurance policy may not cover home visits.
It’s also important to realize that these apps, and the care they provide, are not a substitute for emergency care. Obviously, these doctors cannot bring heavy and/or complex equipment with them. And of course they 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. These virtual visits have become increasingly popular as doctors and patients stay home to avoid COVID-19. 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!