Sunday, September 23, 2007

Retro Medicine: Doctors Making House Calls 24/7

From today's New York Times,

A new kind of medical practice is flourishing nationwide that offers to go to where the patients are — whether a home, an office or a hotel — to treat ailments as diverse as a sprained ankle or a bad case of bronchitis. Some services may even wheel in a mobile X-ray machine or an ultrasound machine, depending on the ailment, or perhaps pull out kits to test for strep throat or to draw blood. They may dole out medication on the spot or arrange for pharmacies to deliver prescriptions.

“When you call, you can speak to a doctor in five minutes, and that doctor can be there with you within the hour. Where else do you get that kind of delivery?” said Walter Krause, founder of Inn-House Doctor. The company says it has 40 physicians on call in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Philadelphia and Washington; some of the doctors are in private practice or work in hospitals, and they make house calls during their time off.

The convenience comes at a price. Appointment fees can range from $250 to $450, with additional tests and medication extra. And payment is due at the time of the appointment.

Another service for Manhattan only is Sickday Medical House Calls and one for Miami only My Home Doctor. About 10 years ago, I argued in this article Deregulate Health Care, Bring Back House Calls, that deregulating medicine and ending the artificial restrictions on the supply of physicians would restore competition to the point that we would see doctors making house calls again. Although not widespread yet, I think the new trend towards housecalls in major cities is a promising sign that market solutions for health care are being taken seriously, especially given other trends like the low-cost, consumer-friendly, market-driven, walk-in health care clinics in retail stores spreading across the country.

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