House calls are back with new push to train more doctors

A new program that partners with eight medical centers and schools hopes to train 5,000 more clinicians to make house calls.

What’s old is new again when it comes to house calls.

A new push aims to train more doctors to provide in-home primary care. The Home Centered Care Institute has launched (PDF) the HCCI Centers of Excellence for Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC), a first-of-its-kind education program designed to train 5,000 new clinicians in the next five years to care for elderly and medically complex patients in their homes. Currently, only about 1,000 physicians and other providers in the U.S. are making the majority of home-based primary care visits, according to the Institute’s estimate.

Training programs will launch this fall at eight medical centers and schools, including The Cleveland Clinic, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

The country faces a shortage of doctors and healthcare practitioners to care for homebound patients, according to a study released last year.

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The program reintroduces the historical model of doctors making house calls to help meet the demands of an aging population.

“HCCI is committed to inspiring, engaging and growing the next generation of home-based primary care professionals,” Thomas Cornwell, M.D., HCCI’s  founder and CEO, said. “We are working to improve the lives of medically complex patients and preparing the nation for future pressures on the healthcare system as America’s aging population grows.”

One program that is using house calls to check on patients after their release from the hospital is the Methodist Physicians Clinic House Call Program in Nebraska.

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Methodist Physicians Clinic launched the program in mid-April after seeing a need to provide care for frail patients with complex chronic needs, particularly those who require support transitioning home after leaving the hospital or a skilled nursing facility, according to Live Well Nebraska.

The program is helping patients avoid return trips to the hospital or emergency room. “[People] just want to get well and be at home,” said Rebecca Wester, M.D., one of the doctors who makes those house calls.