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The Resurgence of the House Call

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"Then I began doing it for a number of families for whom it made sense," he says.

Greene brings a little black bag filled with a stethoscope, some other basic medical instruments and some medicines and examines his patients wherever the light is best in the home, he says.

"For a while, house calls were the most common type of visit, then they became almost extinct. Ideally they will become a part of every pediatric practice, but not the major part as the office is still the best setting because it has the best light and more medical tools than a doctor can carry in his or her bag," he says.

"Sometimes house calls end up being more convenient for me and the parent because we are closer to their home than my office so it just saves both of us time," says Anne Francis, MD, a partner at the Elmwood Pediatric Group, a group of pediatricians in various specialties based in Rochester, N.Y.

"House calls are not appropriate for a very sick child but may be good for something simple or for a homebound child who is in a body cast," says Francis, who's also a fellow of the AAP.

Asked whether pediatric house calls are a trend, she tells WebMD, "I am not seeing it in the Rochester area as a general practice for a lot of reasons including the need for specialized equipment and testing. If you have a very sick child, you may need modalities that you wouldn't be able to carry to the home."

Francis says she prefers the office setting to the home in case she needs to call in her specialist colleagues for help during an evaluation.

There are also some safety concerns for the doctor and the patient when care comes in the form of house calls, she says.

"There may be danger for a doctor who enters a home or an empty office with patients he or she doesn't know very well. There are also some unscrupulous physicians [who could take advantage of a patient because] there are no safeguards to monitor their behavior at the home like a nurse or a receptionist [may do at the office]," she says.

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