Doctors Making House Call Visits to the Elderly
Many doctors are returning to the practice of medicine a hundred years ago and are making house calls. Certain health insurance plans including Medicare will now reimburse a doctor and possibly a staff member -- if test equipment is involved -- to visit homebound patients in their homes.
To qualify for a home visit the patient must have to experience great difficulty in leaving the home. This does not however mean the care recipient need be completely disabled. It simply means that transportation requirements or help needed to get to a doctor might be very expensive or difficult to provide or leaving the home might jeopardize the patient's safety.
Doctors are willing to visit in the home and provide service because they are paid more money by health insurance providers to compensate the doctors for their time and their loss of efficiency in meeting patients in their offices. The insurance providers reason that the additional cost of meeting with patients at home, before major medical problems evolve, is more cost effective than paying for ambulances and treatment in emergency rooms.
Doctors who make home visits are more likely to be experienced in geriatric care. This is because most homebound patients are elderly. This is a positive advantage for a family using a home visiting physician since it is better for the older person to be treated by a doctor with experience in this area. Treatment from someone experienced in geriatrics will typically result in better care.
There are also a number of other advantages to home visits compared with office visits. The patient will be more relaxed and cooperative in familiar surroundings. Older people are thrilled that a doctor would take time to visit them in their home. They will be more compliant, more open and as a result receive better treatment as opposed to receiving care in the doctor's office. Typically the doctor will take more time and be able to establish a better rapport with his patient. The idea of the doctor not having to hurry off to another patient in another room is comforting to an older person.
Another very important benefit is that a physician can see the environment in which his patient is living and have a better understanding of how that environment may affect his patient's health. By seeing it first-hand he can make recommendations for care that would have been impossible in his office. In essence the doctor learns much more about a patient in her home and he can achieve a personal connection that would have been difficult to establish in the office. The ultimate outcome of a house call is that the doctor can provide a greater degree of holistic medical care.
Testing equipment in the past few years has become more portable and the doctor can bring an assistant who might provide tests on site. Heart function, lung function and simple blood tests performed on site can give the doctor an immediate feedback on the needs of his patient and allow him to make treatment decisions without the delay of waiting for test results.
It's exciting to see that innovations in home visits for patients could be creating a new level of quality care for the elderly.