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Aging baby boomers, house call apps help revive lost practice

Looking for a career change? DOs share the benefits and challenges of providing house call care to patients.

Back in the day, house calls were a cornerstone of medicine. But by 1980, they had fallen out of favor and only accounted for about 1% of patient encounters.

In the past decade, though, house calls have become more popular as aging baby boomers begin to face mobility issues and technological advancements have enabled physicians to provide more services to patients in their homes.

Convenience care house calls also are making a comeback through apps, such as Pager and Heal, which provide on-demand care in the comfort of one’s home or hotel room.

Three DOs who provide house calls say this model of care provides more opportunities for patient engagement.

‘It’s a mission’

For Norman E. Vinn, DO, founder of Housecall Doctors Medical Group, providing care to patients confined to their homes is a rewarding way to practice.

“A house call practice is not just another pathway to practice medicine; it’s a mission,” says Dr. Vinn. “There is a growing need to provide high-quality care in the home. It’s the real future of health care.”

Like many house call practitioners, Dr. Vinn has seen more baby boomers become clients as they get older and become less mobile. He also treats younger patients who are homebound or access-challenged.

“The goal of residentialist care is to improve access, continuity of care, and prevent unnecessary hospitalizations,” Dr. Vinn says. “It’s not necessarily a one-time visit.”

Norman E. Vinn, DO, spends time with a patient during a house call visit. (Photo by Rose Raymond)

Meeting the demand

Seeking a better approach to care, Laren Hightower, DO, decided to focus exclusively on providing patients care from the comfort of their homes. He’s launching a new house call practice, Tulsa House Call Doctors, soon, and says there is a lot of interest in his community for house call medicine.

Laren Hightower, DO

“Whether it’s patients who can’t get out of the house or a parent who doesn’t want to round up all the kids in bad weather to get treatment, there is definitely a need to be filled,” Dr. Hightower says.

Seeing patients in their homes enables Dr. Hightower to see if there are any challenges such as tripping hazards that need to be addressed. Dr. Hightower also appreciates the extra time house calls afford him to spend with patients beyond the 15-minute window of most office visits.

“People want that extra time with the doctor. With house calls, we can relax and really go through the medications they are taking and their health history,” says Dr. Hightower.

Technology

Technology such as portable X-rays and electrocardiograms has enabled physicians to offer more services during a house call, says Lawrence Salob, DO, who provides house calls through Island House Doctor.

“There also are different programs available on mobile phones that enable us to take notes and measure blood pressure,” Dr. Salob says.

3 tips for providing house calls

Before making the leap to house call care, consider these tips:

  • Decide if you want to practice on your own or as a contractor with hotels/resorts or with an established house call provider network.
  • Be prepared to encounter a variety of home environments, such as messy homes or unfriendly pets.
  • Learn more about house call practices through professional organizations, including the American Academy Home Care Medicine.

1 comment

  1. I continue to make house calls since 1963
    when I started practice. We are now in
    process of increasing due to more interest
    and easier for patients.

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