So Old It’s New

by Joanna Smith on Oct 5, 2010

Fifty years ago, I would “tag along” as a child with my physician-father as he made house calls to his patients.  We lived in a rural community, and some of his patients paid him with eggs or produce from their farms.  These visits were a revelation to me, even at that age.  I could see how quickly my father could view the entire range of conditions that his patients experienced each day.  Was the home clean?  Were there obstacles they could trip over?  Where were the drugs kept?  Was there food in the home?  He would often say to me that he could see in five minutes in a patient’s home what he might never discover while they were sitting in his office.

Today “house calls” are coming back, possibly to a location near you.  While they are currently set up primarily for elderly patients who have difficulty going to a doctor’s office, it will be interesting to watch the trend.  According to a recent article in Johns Hopkins newsletter “Health after 50” ( there are more than 4,000 physicians nationwide that provide this service.  Under Healthcare Reform, there is a provision for a pilot program, called “Independence at Home” which will attempt to provide home based care to frail and elderly patients.  We are cycling back!  To learn more about the “house calls” program, visit the American Association of Home Care Physicians (  They have a “Physician locator” on their web site, so you can locate a physician for an aging parent or someone on Medicare.  The premise–that it is more cost-effective to provide care to people at home if they are unable to go out and, therefore,  might skip appointments—it’s an idea whose time has come (again).