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The Resurgence of the House Call

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"The less serious danger is that if parents get a sense that they can get a doctor to come to the house, they may delay seeking care thinking if it gets worse, the doctor will come running," Elbirt says.

It's difficult to do house calls during normal working hours unless your practice has a person who is designated to make them on a given day, she says. Also, since insurance may not reimburse for house calls, a price needs to be agreed upon in advance.

And since it is 2001 after all, not the 1950s, of course some of today's house calls have a high-tech twist.

One pediatrician, Alan Greene, MD, an attending pediatrician at Stanford Children's Hospital and an assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Stanford University Medical School put up a web site in 1995 to augment visits with patients and their parents.

"When I started in general office pediatrics, there just wasn't enough time to give the amount and depth of information to make a difference," he tells WebMD. "I could treat an ear infection but there wasn't enough time to investigate the possible causes so I put up a web site to supply the extra background information on common and rare conditions affecting children for parents to access at their convenience."

But virtual house calls really come into play with his five-day-a-week live chats where parents can ask specific questions via the web on a first come/first serve basis.

"Live chat is the closest thing to a house call because of the direct back-and-forth information," he says. "I get letters from people everyday saying that they worked just like a house call for them."

Greene also makes regular house calls for patients who have a tough time getting to the office.

"My first house call was for a set of quadruplets whose parent had a hard time getting all four of them to the office even for a well-visit, so I started stopping by their house on my way home from the office to do well-child visits and look for colds and flus," he tells WebMD.

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