Imagine how patients used to see their doctors before large hospitals and group practices existed. Back then, it was relatively common for doctors to make house calls for any patient too sick to come to the local office. Indeed, there were plenty of doctors back in the day who did not even maintain regular offices. Most of their work was done in the homes of their patients. Believe it or not, the house call model is making a comeback in America which has led us to wonder if there is any place for house calls in psychiatry.
In 2014, MedPage Today ran a fascinating piece profiling a Chapel Hill, NC practice founded by a husband and wife team who were also early pioneers of the locum tenens movement in the 1970s. They decided to establish a new practice in Chapel Hill, focusing mainly on house calls in 2005. After four years of living off their savings and investments, Doctors Making Housecalls finally turned a profit.
Locums Are Making It Possible
At the heart of the success of Doctors Making Housecalls is a solid belief in the contributions of locum tenens providers. Locums provide a valuable service enabling healthcare facilities and companies of all kinds to safely and effectively meet staffing needs. For a company providing mainly home-based medicine, locums are perfect for treating occasional patients while company owners and permanent staff handle those with more consistent needs.
So, back to our original question: is there a place for this kind of model in psychiatry?
The answer is yes! Developed on the heels of Telemedicine comes Telepsychiatry. Telepsychiatry is a service that relies on technology to bring clinical medicine to patients. Instead of visiting their homes, doctors and patients will communicate via videoconference, using computers or other types of equipment. This is a huge advantage to those without easy access to care or with a psychiatry shortage in their area. Studies have shown that this practice could highly benefit psychiatry patients. The motive is to lessen their chances of an ER visit and keep them in the comfort of their own home, where they’re more likely to open up. Telepsychiatry is suitable for a wide-range of patients and the chances of success are good.
This service could change the way psychiatry is practiced all over the country andlocum psychiatrists could continue to play a significant role in the company's success.