The stately grey haired physician, traveling great distances with a stethoscope around his neck and a small travel bag in hand to see his sick and ailing patients.This archaic image is what on might envision when hearing the term 'house call doctor'.
Of course, with the modern resurgence of house call physicians, this cannot adequately describe the house call doctor and all that he does.
By definition, a house call doctor is a physician who visits a patient or client with the intent of providing care where they are. This may be at home, in an office setting or in a hotel. House doctors are trained to carry out most of the same services that you would receive in a doctor’s office, outside of the office.
In previous decades, the house call doctor was the preferred way to receive care. In the earlier part of the previous century, nearly 40% of doctor patient interaction occurred in the patient's home, a number that has steady decreased over the following decades due to the popularity and increased accessibilty of emergency room care.
In recent times however, dissatisfaction with emergency room care and the increasingly assembly line-like nature of hospital care has prompted many to seek alternative methods, namely, house call care.
In fact, one study estimated that in 2010, about 4,000 physicians conducted more than two million house calls.
Advances in medical technology and telemedicine have made the house call an increasingly viable option for patients and physicians alike.
Many aspects of patient care which formerly required large equipment and the assistance of a laboratory, such bloodwork or x-rays, can now be done wherever the patient is using compact, portable solutions. The modern house call doctor also carries a laptop or tablet on house calls, and will often make use of certain mobile applications to take high-resolution photos and send them to specialists in other locations.
In addition to typical clinical assessments, house physicians may also observe the patient in their everyday activities, reconcile discrepencies in prescriptions, and evaluate home safety to a degree otherwise impossible with traditional care. This is particularly helpful for geriatric or chronically ill patients .
The benefits of home care include:
More personalized care and attention. With the doctor on-site, patients can enjoy the benefits that come from longer visits and evaluations in their own environment
Immediate consideration by one's primary care doctor. As compared to the notoriously long wait times associated with emergency room care, house call doctors are able to respond to patients much more rapidly
Reduced exposures to transmittable diseases and infections found in hospitals,such as MRSA.
Improved convenience for geriatric and home bound patients, who may be inclined to skip doctor's visits due to the diffulty of travel
Eliminates emergency room and transportation cost, up to 25 percent on average
Overall higher patient satisfaction
By means of house calls, doctors are allowed to develop the sort of one-on-one relationship that has become increasingly difficult with office visits or hospitalization. Patients with chronic illnesses are helped by the doctor's attentiveness to their environment, helping them to learn how to take better care of themselves when the doctor or healthcare professional is not available.
Of course, there are limitations to the effectiveness of the house call doctor. For instance, urgent conditions or emergency situations may still require emergency room care. Situations requiring surgery, or extensive laboratory work still need to be performed in-house. However, for less than life-threatening things like stomach pain, cuts requiring stitching, or fever, house calls more than adequately fulfill the needs of patients.