The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Bergeron, Learning and Development Manager at The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
The closest I’ve come to experiencing a house call was watching Dr. Baker on “Little House on the Prairie” visit the good folks of Walnut Grove. Today, most people have no choice but to trek to their doctors’ offices and hospitals for health maintenance, diagnoses and check-ups. But new technologies are returning the personalized attention of the house call and will need to be adopted to retain the convenience and accessibility they offer.
I haven’t met anyone with a practice like Dr. Baker’s, though I recently read a news article that highlights the comeback of the house call. Some practitioners are banding together to provide round-the-clock care to patients who benefit from the fast response and lower cost: If a deductible or copay is higher than the price of the doctor’s visit, the patient may opt for the home visit.(1) The updated versions of the house call, however, are born of the technology used for telehealth, mobile health and health stations.
Telehealth allows a person to connect with a provider via the Internet. Patient and doctor can video conference, share informational media, and experience a face-to-face interaction without either party traveling from his or her home or office.(2) This allows patients better access to specialists who may have been too far away to visit and more frequent care at the right time to reduce the chances of serious complications or hospitalization. For patients who require frequent care over time, telehealth enables them to receive the medical attention they need while staying near their support network.(4) For providers, access to networks of specialists who can provide remote consultation helps them retain and ensure the highest level of care for patients rather than refer patients to another location.(3)
Both patients and providers also save time and money when there is no commute to an office or to a patient’s home. This is especially true of patients who live in rural areas and have to travel long distances for care. The quicker a patient can connect with the right specialist to treat or prevent serious illness, the lower the overall cost of care. (3)
Mobile health, or mHealth, takes technology one step further by allowing providers to track and monitor patient health on mobile devices such as tablets or phones. This includes monitoring devices that measure heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, blood glucose and body weight. mHealth can be used in the office or taken on the road the way mobile clinics do. When healthcare is mobile, the ability to bring a doctor’s office to a neighborhood gives access to communities that otherwise wouldn’t seek or know how to find care. Currently, all 50 U.S. states have mobile clinics.(4)
Another trend in the making is the health kiosk. These look like private pods, about the size of four phone booths side by side. Think of it as telehealth combined with a mobile clinic. HealthSpot, a provider of health kiosks, describes them as “the access point to better healthcare.”(5) In addition to providing interaction with healthcare professionals via video conferencing, each station has an attendant and an automatic cleaning system. HealthSpot aims to give patients a private, personal, efficient experience.
Healthcare is on the move to better accommodate our lives, schedules, family structures and communities, which have vastly evolved from the “Little House on the Prairie” days and even from a decade ago. At the same time, our industry faces challenges in making the new technologies simple to use in order for them to be effective. With telehealth, for example, people typically need help setting up a home system and technical assistance. Meanwhile, providers face communicating and documenting in a new environment.
As we enter this new, modern, faster era of healthcare, both patients and providers will need to learn how to implement and adopt new systems, technologies and ways of interacting. Easing adoption is what we are prepared to do at The Breakaway Group. Once the learning-and-comfort curve is overcome, patients can experience the convenience of Dr. Baker’s updated home visit.
(1) Godoy, Maria, (December 19, 2005). A Doctor at the Door: House Calls Make Comeback.
(2) Health Resources and Services Administration Rural Health, (2012). Telehealth.
(3) Hands on telehealth, (2013). 15 Benefits of telehealth.
(4) Hill, C., Powers, B., Jain, S., Bennet, J., Vavasis, A., and Oriol, N. (March 20, 2014). Mobile Health Clinics in the Era of Reform.
(5) The HealthSpot Station.
Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.