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Doctors’ House Calls Making a Comeback

| August 24, 2014 Comment

Doctors’ house calls are making a comeback, and could lead to significant savings for Medicare. House calls can improve medical care for older and most frail patients in Medicare.

A new study shows that it might be cheaper for doctors to make these old-fashioned” house calls than to see some of their older patients in emergency rooms for complaints like high blood pressure or pain from chronic diseases. The study shows that such elder care is growing in the US, with Medicare paying for 2.8 million hose calls in 2012 compared to 1.5 million ten years ago.

The study was conducted by founders of the house-call program at Medstar Washington Hospital Center. The program provides teams of doctors and nurses who make house calls on home-bound patients with complex care needs. With portable medical equipment, doctors can do EKGs right in the living room, take a look at the home and make sure there are no tripping hazards, arrange for home delivery of medications, and offer urgent care. The program works with social workers to provide supportive care.

Researchers found that over a two-year period, total Medicare costs were 17 percent lower for the house-call patients, or an average savings of about $4,200 per person per year, than those who were not on the house-call program. This group also used more primary care but less hospital, specialty, and nursing home care – which is expensive.

Medicare has begun a major demonstration project designed to test how well the house-call approach really works. More….

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