U.S. Healthcare begins to go back to go forward – the return of the house call

As an agency working in a variety of aspects and segments of healthcare marketing, our team has acquired a broad view of healthcare marketing. One trend that seems clear is that with the continued growth of healthcare EHR (electronic health records), medical professionals will have access to a central repository containing the prior personal medical history of their patients.

Regarding EHR, if you worry about the security of your personal patient data, include me in that pool. But I also acknowledge that there are also substantial patient benefits when medical professionals all read off the same patient chart. I am representing this in an ideal sense here. It will take too many years for the electronic data records to become the standard.

Those of us old enough to remember TV shows like Dr. Kildare , Petticoat Junction, and Marcus Welby M.D., well-remember that sometimes the doctors would go to the patient’s house complete with the little black bag and all the trimmings.

An excerpt from a 2015 Forbes article: ‘House calls used to make up 40 percent of U.S. doctors’ visits in the 1940s, before going into decline in the 1960s. These days, they comprise less than one percent of consultations. Many believe that more house calls would increase quality of care at low cost, which led Medicare to launch an “Independence at Home” demonstration project for seniors with multiple chronic conditions in 15 states. Starting in 2012, the project has had promising results.’

As healthcare trends moved the patient visit out of the home and into practice offices, house calls became a thing of the past. Less compelling is the suggestion in the article that:

This invites the question: Why did house calls decline? In a recent tweet, Jay Parkinson, MD, founder of the extremely innovative Sherpaa medical service claimed: “There’s a reason why house calls went out of fashion. Grossly inefficient use of very expensive doctor time + extremely limited capability.”

“Dr. Parkinson’s identifying house calls as an inefficient use of doctors’ time is a very limited view of costs in health care. The almost complete elimination of house calls has not increased efficiency, it has only transferred the cost of travelling and waiting from doctors to patients.”

Most people prefer to avoid extended stays in the hospital and to only go the hospital if it’s absolutely necessary. After all, hospitals are where all the sick people are as is the risk of an acquired infection. This has led to the rise of non-hospital surgical procedures and services, at places like Ambulatory Surgical Centers, rehabilitation centers, and convalescence facilities.

Treating patients outside of the hospital is less expensive and quite often much more effective for everyone – insurance companies, hospitals, and PATIENTS. This is where the house call can return to deliver more effective healthcare.

Don’t picture the kindly old doctor with the black bag. It could be a doctor making the house call, but it also could be a nurse or home health aide. We know that patients in general are more comfortable at home. With the development of Telehealth services, EHR’s and a growing legion of healthcare professionals (the category is booming), house calls are again becoming a viable and valuable aspect of medical care.

I wonder how people will feel about allowing health professionals to enter their home more frequently? I wrote about the development that healthcare providers already are contacting patients a lot more frequently via email and mobile apps,  (after patients only receiving postal mail for so many years), it will take some time to become accustomed to the no longer old-fashioned house call.

About markkolier

Futurist, entrepreneur, left lane driver
This entry was posted in Healthcare, Healthcare marketing, Personal Privacy and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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