Is there a doctor in the house?

The Renewed Interest in House Calls Includes a Please for the Familiar Physician

It may not be a full-scale “back to the future” movement, but by every indication the return of the physician house call is a small but growing phenomenon in primary care medicine. In part, this revival is expanding because of the “Independence at Home Demonstration”, an ACA-generated test program studying the effectiveness of treating chronically ill people at home, primarily those with limited mobility.

Early reports and common sense are telling us that this now rare but once common practice can play a role in significantly reducing healthcare costs while also improving the quality of care for many frail elderly and chronically ill patients.

Despite the fact that Medicare changes have made house calls more readily billable, it’s still a practice model that simply isn’t economically viable for the significant majority of practitioners, at least not yet. But even if you’re not reaching for your black bag and heading for the car, don’t fail to understand what else is at play. In fact, if you listen carefully, you’ll hear within the house calls comeback a clearly expressed plea for the familiar physician.

That’s because physician home visits represent less hurried and more satisfactory encounters for patients and physicians alike. There’s an opportunity to truly connect with people and as a consequence, the potential to develop a stronger patient-physician bond.

It’s tough to create a true home-like setting in our exam rooms, although a little attention to detail and comfort always helps. What we can do, however, is re-invent the exam room experience, through a physician-led team care approach that lets doctors focus on their patients once again, and not on a keyboard.

It’s an opportunity to strengthen relationships with patients, increase staff and patient satisfaction, improve the overall financial picture and restore much of the pleasure you may have lost in the practice of medicine. Transforming the exam room isn’t the same as a house call, but it just might be the best of both worlds.