Helping people beyond medical care with HouseCalls

As a nurse practitioner who focuses on in-home visits, Lirio Lopez knows it’s sometimes the little things that can lead to big solutions for members.

Through her work with HouseCalls, a program that meets UnitedHealthcare® Medicare Advantage members in their homes, she had annual visits with one individual for about three years. During a simple check-in screening, she asked this member: Do you have enough food?

The member replied, yes, she had food, but it was all frozen. It turned out her refrigerator was not working properly and, in turn, was spoiling her food. She alerted the apartment manager, but a month had passed, and it was still not fixed.

While Lirio’s HouseCalls visits usually include things like wellness check-ups, health screenings and pain assessments, it’s also a chance to assess a member’s social determinants of health needs — the factors like food insecurity, transportation, housing and more, which can have a huge impact on their health.

In fact, it’s been shown that 80% of what affects a person’s health happens outside of a clinical setting.

Food insecurity doesn’t always mean the ability to afford food — sometimes, it’s simply access to proper food storage. Realizing that the member could not maintain the quality of her food without a working refrigerator, Lirio asked for the number of the apartment manager and made a call on her behalf. She explained the urgent situation and asked for the issue to be a priority.

“At the end of the visit, the maintenance guy arrived with a new replacement fridge,” Lirio said. “My member smiled and I could see through her eyes how grateful she was.”

Since UnitedHealthcare introduced HouseCalls in 2012, more than 10 million HouseCalls visits have been completed. These check-ins offer an opportunity for a health care professional to assess a member’s overall well-being and set in motion the right follow-up actions, whether that be referrals to other providers, referrals to social support, wellness coaching, or enrollment in other health, wellness or behavioral programs.

During a visit, typical activities may include:

  • An overview of your medical history and prescription medications
  • Conversations about overall well-being, like how to help you stay active, sleep well and manage stress
  • Tips to help prevent fall hazards in the home
  • Community resources and support for issues related to social determinants of health and more

It’s in that high-touch experience where compassionate listening can take place — and an extra set of eyes for those served by the program — that can often make a meaningful difference. And for Lirio, it’s just one example of how she has the opportunity to serve others.

“As HouseCalls nurse practitioners, it is up to us to change the world for each member that we see every day,” she said. “I feel grateful to have been able to contribute to helping my member who was in need.”

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