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In home primary care visits hope to improve health care, save money

Posted Tuesday, January 30, 2018 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

As many of us know, health care in our country is not perfect. One problem involves access to primary care, and the corresponding problem of people with non-emergent health care needs resorting to the local emergency department for help.

Concurrently, there has been an increase in the availability and use of technology in health care, including telemedicine – the ability to provide care to patients remotely. This has been the subject of recent blog posts here and here.

In this context, a community health center in Washington, D.C. has started a pilot program which brings primary care services to the homes of folks who can’t or won’t make it to primary care visits, and who are risks to use the local ER instead.

As described in a recent NPR article, a medical assistant goes to a patient’s home with a suitcase full of equipment to check his vital signs, and with a laptop which connects virtually with a doctor in another part of town. The medical assistant takes and records the patient’s blood pressure and pulse, weighs him, and listens to his lungs. While this is going on, a doctor is “seeing” the patient through the laptop, considering the new vital signs, and recommending treatment.

The purpose of such programs is at least two fold. First, health care organizations want to figure out a way to provide preventative care services to patients who either can’t make such visits (whether due to mobility, work, childcare, or some other reason). Offering in home telemetry-based services will hopefully make the population healthier.

Second, it will save money in the long run, not only as a result of a healthier population, but also with a reduction in the amount of non-emergent ER visits.

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