In the 1930’s, 40% of doctor patient interactions in the United States were done by house calls. House calls were conducted for non-emergency type situations such as, a cut that needed stitches, the flu, or ear infection. In the 60’s most doctors stopped making house calls and began referring people to the emergency room. Now these kind of urgent care issues make up for about 130 million visits to the ER each year.
When people begin filling up the emergency room for urgent care issues, it makes it harder on the emergency room doctors and nurses to treat everyone. Urgent care patients find themselves waiting for hours for treatment, which is extremely upsetting to them. Doctors are beginning to take notice that the market for making house calls is large and many doctors are beginning to offer the service again.
Medicine went through a period when physicians was real busy. There was an under supply of doctors. A physician could see four or five patients in a single hour in his office, but if he went out on house calls he could only see one or two. Medicine and health practitioners became more specialized over time. As a result, patients were commonly unable to depend on a single physician.
House Calls Becoming More Common?
There are several reasons that home health care seems to be making a comeback. There are more physicians available, which means that they need something to stand out from the crowd in order to attract new patients. This can be especially true in urban areas or for those new and just entering the medical profession.
More and more doctors, multi-physician offices and health centers are starting to offer home visits. According to the Academy of Home Care Physicians, a home visit may typically run you a couple hundred dollars, while a trip to the ER could easily be over a thousand. Plus, they say that by 2020 two million elderly patients will be chronically ill and home bound.
Australia is Full Steam Ahead
In Australia, two of the leading doctor services that offer home visits have come together to provide even better care for patients. This is for people who need to see a doctor after hours, but are not sick enough to go to the emergency room. The home visiting doctor provides patients with the same quality of care they would expect from their own GP after hours.
Doctors doing a home visit are efficiently prepared to treat health problems, even many urgent ones. They’re the same medical professionals patients could expect to see in the hospital, a doctor office or the ER. Some doctors only bulk bill home visits for children and the elderly which are the ones who are generally seen in the emergency room most often due to urgent care issues.
Australia is trying to get the word out to its residents that this service is available. In areas where residents knew about the availability of home doctor visits, the amount of people going to the emergency room for urgent care has dropped dramatically.
How About the U.S.?
According to the American Academy of Private Physicians, there are reportedly 3,500 private doctors making house calls today in the United States compared to 700 doctors 5 years ago. Many of the larger doctors’ offices are now offering ‘house call doctors’ also known as ‘home visits.’ Even companies like Microsoft offer a similar healthcare service at home.
There are many benefits to doctors providing home visits. First, it’s difficult for a doctor to really get an insight into to a patient, their health or their lifestyle in a span of 10 or 15 minutes. Home visits provide a more intimate understanding of this, which helps them provide better treatment.
Also many elderly people would be forced into a nursing facility if home visits were not available. And of course, the savings on medical care expenses. It is expected that more doctors will begin offering home visits as part of their services and the days of doctors coming to the homes of patients will return.