Until the 1960s, all a patient had to do is to pick up the phone to call a doctor, and someone would knock on their door, big black bag in hand, in a few hours. But this practice changed as we entered the ’70s. Doctors began group practices. More hospitals opened up. Technology cannot yet be brought to a patient’s house. The result is medical practice as we know now. We call to get an appointment. We wait for the appointment date. We line up, fill up the forms, and wait hours for the doctor to see us.
If you need a checkup, call a general physician in Des Moines, Iowa months ahead so that you can be accommodated. Their schedules are usually full that patients wait for months to see them. It’s a tiring process and one that patients—the elderly, most especially—often lament about.
But there’s a silver lining. House calls are becoming more popular again. Although it only comprises 1% of all patient visits, there is increased interest in doctor house calls again for non-emergency cases.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) says that at least four million Americans cannot visit a doctor’s clinic or the emergency room. Many of them have disabilities, while others are homebound for a variety of reasons. They put off visiting doctors as much as they can because it is simply “too much” for them to leave their houses. As a result, their medical conditions worsen, and they suffer terribly.
The average cost of a visit to the doctor is between $100 and $200. That’s without laboratory tests. Emergency consultations and tests are even more expensive. House calls help lower the costs because the patient has to pay for the doctor’s fee only. Not having to travel to the hospital or the doctor’s clinic will also help eliminate some of the logistical nightmare associated with having to deal with visits to the doctor.
There is growing evidence that patients receive a better diagnosis during a house call. It reestablishes a more intimate doctor-patient relationship. In-home care is more personalized because the doctor can customize the treatment to the patient’s individual medical needs. In a clinical or hospital setting, the doctors see about 20 patients in two hours. This is not enough to really understand patient woes.
House calls allow doctors to see the kind of support and environment the patient has and lives in. This allows for better diagnosis and treatment recommendations. In-home care also provides comfort to patients and their families. They feel better knowing that they are being cared for in their homes.
Availability of Care
The availability of doctor house calls allows patients to live significantly far from a doctor’s clinic or hospital. Today, many retirees try to live as close to the hospital as possible for emergency purposes. This raises the cost of living. Many of them also opt for assisted-living facilities because of the availability of medical care there. But this means living far from their families and friends.
There is a real benefit to patients for house calls to reemerge again in the healthcare industry. The future looks bright, especially because medical equipment has also gone mobile. This alone indicates a move toward a move aggressive in-home care.