House calls have existed for hundreds of years. We have all seen a movie or TV show that takes place in the 1800s or at the turn of the 20th century. When someone gets sick, hurt, or the wife goes into labor, a doctor is called for or fetched. He grabs his black medical bag and travels from his home by buggy to the patient’s home. Once there, he treats their ailment or delivers the baby. This is a house call.
A house call is when a medical professional visits you in your own home for your medical visit. Instead of you needing to go to their clinic or the hospital, they are able to assess and treat you at home.
But, are house calls a thing of the past? After all, we live in a world of modern conveniences and hospitals.
While house calls might not be the norm that they were in the 1800s, we are seeing that house calls are on the rise again. Let’s take a look at the history of house calls and explore why house calls are still a necessary party of our modern era.
While medicine has been studied in one way or another since ancient Greece, modern medicine as we know it today fully began to take shape in the early 19th century.
As cities began to grow, a need to improve public health arose. Physicians started to develop more systematic approaches to diagnosing their patients’ ailments. There were also advancements in technology available in laboratories and health facilities.
From the earliest days of modern medicine, physicians have made house calls. House calls allowed physicians to diagnose and treat their patients in the comfort and safety of their own homes. It also allowed them to see the patient’s living conditions to determine the effects on the patient’s health.
During the 19th century, house calls were the standard. Doctors carried their black bags around filled with the basic equipment needed to treat their patients. They spent a lot of time on the road traveling from home to home and town to town.
As medical advances brought about new medical equipment, much of that technology became too large to carry around in the doctor’s black bag. Rather than the doctor going to the patient, the patient had to travel to the doctor’s office or to the local hospital.
In the 1930s, 40% of patient visits were conducted via house calls. By the early 1970s, this percentage had decreased to 5%. By the time we entered the 21st century, house calls were practically an old-fashioned model no longer in practice.
The short answer is yes. Although there was a massive decline in house calls during the 20th century, we are starting to see a rise in house calls in the 21st century. This is occurring for several reasons.
One factor is that the elderly generation is rapidly growing. With this comes the need for early prevention and easy access to medical care.
According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20% of the population in 2030 will be made up of people 65 years or older. This large shift in demographics is taking place because we are experiencing longer life spans. Also, a large number of baby boomers are getting older.
Another factor is patients with mobility issues, many of whom are homebound.
In today’s world, we are seeing many people who are experiencing chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and lung disease. While some of these individuals are able to get themselves to and from the doctor’s office for their appointments, others cannot. Those with mobility issues have to rely on others to transport them to their health facility.
For those who are homebound or do not have access to reliable transportation, house calls are vital. Receiving medical treatment at home helps ensure that their chronic conditions do not worsen resulting in hospital stays or other more extensive treatment plans.
A third reason we are seeing house calls on the rise is better and smaller technology.
During the 20th century as newer medical devices were developed, they were large and cumbersome. They could not be transported around from house to house. This forced the patients to come to the office to be treated.
In the 21st century, technology continues to improve in functionality and size. Devices that used to be stationary in the corner of an office are now smaller and more portable. This allows healthcare providers to be on the move again.
Another reason, which we have seen over the past two and half years, has been the need for people to isolate themselves.
When the COVID-19 pandemic started, millions of people had to quarantine to protect themselves from being infected. For months, they self-isolated to stay safe. This also meant that they had to put off doctor’s appointments. However, this also left people vulnerable.
Like many other industries, medicine was forced to find ways to provide healthcare to individuals in new (or old) and innovative ways. Telemedicine allowed doctors to visit with their patients online. House calls created an opportunity for physicians to travel to their high-risk patients to meet their medical needs without jeopardizing their health.
As more physicians and healthcare providers are offering house calls as an option to their patients, let’s consider the benefits of using this service.
No one likes the idea of driving to the doctor’s office and sitting in a crowded waiting room for 30 minutes before being called back to an exam room. Some people even experience increased anxiety and stress which may skew test results.
House calls eliminate these inconveniences. Rather than spending time in a waiting or exam room, you can wait in the comfort of your own home. This helps reduce stress and anxiety while you wait in a space where you feel safe and comfortable.
Also, it allows continuous care for those who are unable to travel to the doctor’s office. For someone who is homebound or does not have transportation, this can make the world of difference in their healthcare.
Along with convenience comes more personalized care. A house call creates an environment where you may feel more at ease in discussing your symptoms and treatment plan with your physician.
Doctors are also able to see their patients in their home environment. This allows them to assess and address possible risks. It also affords them the opportunity to personally check on things like medications, nutrition, family support, and other factors that can only be talked about when in an office. Being able to watch or inspect patients in their homes creates an opportunity to provide personalized care that can be tailored to fit their patient’s needs.
Who doesn’t want to save some money? House calls can be more cost-effective in several ways.
It saves on transportation costs. By eliminating the need to travel to the doctor’s office, patients are able to save money on gas or public transportation.
Because of the convenience of house calls, patients may be more likely to follow their treatment plan. In the long run, this can help reduce the need for expensive emergency room visits or extended hospital stays. One study looked at postoperative cardiac surgery patients. Those on a physician assistant home care (PAHC) program, which consisted of house calls, resulted in the 30-day readmission rate being reduced by 25%.
In addition, insurance companies have been modifying their policies around home-based care. This opens the door for more healthcare providers to offer these services and for more patients to take advantage of the benefits.
Everyone. While you might think that house calls are only for the elderly or homebound, this is not true. Anyone can benefit from primary care home visits.
Depending on your needs, you can find a physician, nurse practitioner (NP), or physician assistant (PA) who can meet your primary care needs in your own home.
If you are interested in finding a home care provider, the American Academy of Home Care Medicine (AAHCM) has a directory on their site that allows you to search for a provider near you.
If you reside in Lincoln, Omaha, Fremont, or the surrounding communities, Community Healthcare Partners can help meet your healthcare needs. Our highly-skilled team of nurse practitioners and physician assistants can provide you and your loved ones with comprehensive care in your own home. We offer services such as physical exams, preventative care, chronic disease management, and more. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule an appointment.