House Call Come-Back

Most of us believe that doctors who make house calls are a thing of the past.  But the age old tradition may be making a come-back.

With a growing older population who are striving to age in place, the concept of a visiting doctor service is taking hold in many Canadian communities.  In the Toronto area, a non-profit program, House Calls, operates with a grant from the province.  The team provides on-going health care for home-bound seniors.

Renewing house calls may be one way the health system will be able to sustain itself with the growing number of seniors.  By treating elderly patients in their own home, the number of hospital visits is reduced and long term care may be postponed.  In British Columbia, the fee for visiting doctors was raised to encourage the practice.

Home visits not only provide health care for patients who have difficulty getting out of the house, they offer insight for doctors about the living conditions of the elderly.  Seeing how a senior citizen functions in their own home provides a valuable opportunity to address issues such as safety or diet.  Patients may also be more forthcoming about their health concerns in a comfortable, less clinical setting.

The continuity of care provided by regular home visits may be one way to save health care dollars while improving quality of life.  Keeping seniors out of hospital and long-term care facilities is a win-win for the system and the patient.  The challenge going forward is to mentor young doctors in the practice of house calls and ensure there is appropriate compensation.