House calls have made a real come-back in recent years, and so availability is becoming fairly widespread throughout the United States. These are important things to consider when searching for a house call practitioner.

The Search

While patients may use the American Academy of Home Care Medicine (AAHCM) website to search for providers who work with Medicare, online search engine queries for “housecall doctor” will now produce results for many locations throughout the United States.

A quick review of a physician’s website should reveal services offered, fees and insurance information. Be wary of websites wherein the individual providers are not listed. For these sites, always call to ask for a physician’s or other provider’s credentials before enlisting their services for your care.

Verify State Medical Licensure

Medical licensure sets the minimum competency requirements to diagnose and treat patients.  Check with your state medical licensing board to verify a provider’s credentials. For example, to check a physician’s license in California go to Medical Board of California.  Most states have similar user-friendly websites.

Is Your Doctor Board Certified?

Board certification demonstrates a physician’s “exceptional expertise” in a particular specialty and/or subspecialty of medical practice, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties.  Check with the ABMS to see if your doctor is board certified.

Non-Physician Practitioners

Many nurse practitioners and physician assistants are competent and render excellent medical care. However, it is important to research their background just as you would for a physician.  Ask if they are board certified, and in what specialty.

Online Physician Reviews

Sometimes a simple online search for a medical provider’s name with credentials will reveal important information. Other sites, such as Angie’s List or Yelp, may provide helpful reviews, however these reviews must be considered carefully when gauging the competence of a medical caregiver. As it often seems to be with human nature, disgruntled patients tend to leave reviews more frequently than satisfied patients.  Also, keep in mind that patients who seek controlled substances for abuse or diversion purposes may leave negative reviews for medical providers when refused prescriptions by the ethical professional.  The care provider is not allowed to respond to the review with an explanation because of patient privacy regulations.

Also, know that some online review sites are notorious for manipulating ratings based upon whether the reviewee pays for advertising with them.

Safety First: How prepared is your house call provider?

We recommend that house call physicians offer medication injections only if adequately prepared for adverse medication reactions. Specific medications for serious allergic reactions and other problems should be carried by the competent house call provider who is familiar with their use. Ideally, basic airway equipment and even supplemental oxygen should be readily accessible when patients are treated in this way. Clinics, doctor’s offices and ER’s always have some capability to handle these situations. If you anticipate receiving an injection during the doctor visit, inquire as to what your provider carries for your safety. If the caregiver states that he or she does not need anything else because they have never had a problem treating patients with injectable medications, consider looking for a safer, more prepared, house call provider. While serious reactions are rare, they do occur. A solo medical provider who is not prepared, is inviting disaster. The death of a celebrity pop singer recently is a case in point.

Bedside Manner

Provider personality should be considered since medical outcomes are influenced by patient-physician communication. If possible, interview your potential candidate doctor first by phone, then in-person. Not all physicians will be accessible by phone for this purpose, but is is worth asking. Fortunately, because house call practitioners spend much more time with their patients than their office and clinic-bound colleagues, most tend to be socially adept.