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Health Team

Doctors' house calls making a comeback

Posted October 22, 2010 12:27 p.m. EDT
Updated October 22, 2010 6:52 p.m. EDT

— House calls by doctors are making a comeback after dying off when health care became concentrated in clinics and hospitals in the 20th century.

Doctor Andrew Lyons gave up his office in New York 10 years ago and started visiting patients in their homes.

"There's no substitute for the house call," Lyons said. "You get a great insight into your patients, into their lives, how they live, where they keep their medications."

Amalia Morgens is glad to see the return of a tradition from her childhood. At age 98, she needs to see a doctor monthly, and a house visit is much more convenient for her.

"It's a blessing," Morgens said.

Demand for health care is expected to increase as the American population ages, so the future of primary care might be in the home. In most cases, house calls are covered by Medicare.

"By 2030, we'll have more than 70 million folks over the age of 65," said Dr. Steve Landers, director of Cleveland Clinic Center for Home Care in Akron, Ohio.

The laptop computer has replaced the classic black doctors' bag during house visits. Modern technology allows doctors to EKG tests, blood tests and X-rays in the home.

Landers said the ability to do those kinds of testing is important for elderly people, many of whom suffer from multiple conditions.

"They need that integrated medical care, and the home is a great place to get it," he said.

Lyons said that house calls are less expensive because there's no overhead for an office. More importantly, he said, house calls allow him to spend more time with patients.

"Some of them consider me a part of their family," Lyons said. "It's a very rewarding experience in that aspect."