Back to Basics: Doctors Making House Calls Again
"One element that is missing in health care today is service, and people are willing to pay a little extra for service," Saffouri says. "Our doctors really enjoy the contact with patients. We are putting the patient and the doctor back together."
Location also adds to the appeal. "Our patients can be treated in the comfort of their own home, office, or even hotel room," he says. "We treat a wide range of patients, from traveling tourists and working class families to VIPs."
Doctors such as Ghassan Fayel, MD, medical director of South Florida for AM/PM HouseCalls and a family practitioner, can dispense medications, issue drug prescriptions, and make referrals to medical specialists. Fayel makes up to 12 house calls per day and has been doing so for four years. "I enjoy this much more than sitting in an office and waiting for patients to come to me," he says.
Fayel attributes a growing discontent among the physician work force to the rebirth of doctor house calls. "Doctors are realizing that they cannot make a decent living by waiting for insurance companies to reimburse them for services rendered," he tells WebMD.
Chris Guzik, MD, a family practitioner in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., who has been with AM/PM HouseCalls since October 1999, agrees. "I can treat patients from a medical point of view with no worries about insurance coverage. I can use the drugs that I want and not have to worry about whether or not they are on the insurance company's formulary."
Another company, the Call Doctor Company in San Diego, Calif., has 10 physicians in Riverside, San Diego, and San Bernadino, Calif., and plans to expand, explains Hank Fanelli, CEO of the Call Doctor Company. Patients call a toll-free number or visit the company's web site to arrange for a house call.
Fanelli points to the fact that today two-thirds of the population reaches age 65 -- and enters the fastest-growing segment of the population. For now, Fanelli's company caters mainly to elderly housebound patients, but it plans to start offering services to younger patients.