Are Doctor House Calls Making a Comeback?

By Dwane McFerrin, Vice President, Medicare Solutions

  • Originally published August 14, 2012 , last updated January 12, 2016
  • Medicare
Are Doctor House Calls Making a Comeback?

Remember the Western movies that would show the doctor arriving on his horse and carriage to check on the expectant mother or tend to a bullet wound? Or how about Doc “Moonlight” Graham from the Kevin Costner film “Field of Dreams” who carried his doctor’s bag in Chisholm, Minnesota? Most of us never experienced a doctor’s house call. With more means of transportation and the introduction of health insurance, doctor house calls as a popular practice declined rapidly since the end of the 19th century. But what if I told you that doctor house calls are making a comeback? Why? You might say it is out of necessity, not only for the patient but also for the health plan.

The battle for quality stars in Medicare Advantage plans starts with a good initial health assessment and a plan of action by the provider. Asking the patient to come to a clinic likely won’t end in 100% participation, so some health plans are beginning to schedule, you got it, doctor house calls! The practice is being employed by several Medicare Advantage carriers and can involve a medical doctor, physicians assistant or a nurse to make an initial assessment of the health needs of an individual.

The member may schedule a simple health exam or check-up that will be conducted in the comfort of their homes by a visiting medical doctor. The visiting doctors will check members’ blood pressure, listen to their hearts, and ask them simple health-related questions during their scheduled home visits. The health information obtained during these home exams is shared with members’ primary care physicians in the effort to ensure greater interaction and cooperation. This service is particularly valuable for those with chronic health conditions. A doctor can build a plan to coordinate care and what better way to determine your client’s needs than to see them in their home environment.

Some of your clients may fear that the purpose of the call is to deny them coverage. Rest assured, the health plan has the best interests of the client (and the health plan) in mind. Remember, the intent is for the initial assessment only. Your client will still need to visit the clinic or hospital to receive medical care. The doctor house call may be in addition to the Verification call conducted by the health plan, so you may need to educate your client that they may receive a phone call to verify the client understands the benefits of the Medicare Advantage plan. In addition, there may be an in-home visit by the health plan to develop an initial assessment needed for developing a coordinated care plan.

Who would have guessed that we’d see the emergence of doctor house calls in our lifetime? Don’t expect the doctor to show up in a horse and carriage or even carry a medical bag but the visit is indeed a doctor house call.

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