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ARTICLE House Call 2.0

Chronically ill patients often have unplanned episodes of care. If poorly managed, these episodes can result in poor medical outcomes as well as unnecessary care costs. But studies show that it's not prudent to wait for the chronically ill to come into the doctor's office – because too often that turns into an unplanned trip to the emergency room.2 And emergency rooms are not ideal for addressing chronic care needs. Recent research shows ever-increasing waits for care in U.S. emergency rooms – particularly for those who are severely ill. For example, one in four heart attack victims wait 50 minutes or more before seeing a doctor.3

Bring the care to the patient
How can we better serve high-risk individuals and help reduce the likelihood of their having to use emergency rooms or acute in-patient services? We think one answer may be the physician house call program currently being piloted in our South Florida health plan.

Proactive care
UnitedHealthcare is working with a home health care vendor called My Home DoctorSM to provide doctor visits in the home. Their outreach nurses work with the vendor to arrange in-home consultations for high-risk enrollees. The My Home Doctor organization provides board-certified physicians who are equipped to perform many of the services found in a traditional medical office or urgent care facility – from blood work to X-rays – right in the home.

The benefits of proactively managing chronic illness are clearly shown in lower mortality rates and improved quality of life for these patients.3 In addition, the home care pilot is yielding fewer hospital admissions, re-admissions and emergency room services, which means reduced medical costs for individuals and employers.

The physician house call program is in pilot phase.

2. Managing High-Risk, High-Cost Patients, Permanente Journal, Spring 2005.
3. Dramatic Increase in ER Waiting Times, Harvard Science, 01/15/2008.

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