Ever think of making house calls?

The recent economy has forced many health and wellness practitioners, including chiropractors, to re-evaluate the way they offer and charge for their services. We’re having to become much more innovative in order to continue providing care to our patients and still pay our bills. One of the more interesting ideas being tried by some doctors is the return of the house call.

Doctor making house call

'Country Doctor Ernest Ceriani Making House Call on Foot in Small Town.' Photo by W. Eugene Smith / Life Magazine Archives.

Up until the 1950s or so, many (if not most) medical doctors made house calls in addition to seeing patients in their offices. That was before they felt they needed $2 million in equipment before they could write a prescription for antibiotics. When medical went high-tech, the little black bag wasn’t sufficient, so house calls went out of fashion. According to a report in the Clinics of Geriatric Medicine, house calls accounted for 40% of physician encounters in 1930, 10% by 1950, and less than 1% in 1980.

The really interesting thing is, in recent years that figure’s been creeping back up and now hovers around 5%. Apparently, many MDs are seeing the wisdom of seeing their patients at home. Some even do it full time in order to rid themselves of their high-rent offices, expensive equipment, and costly staff. Others offer house calls in addition to office hours in order to provide services for elderly, bedridden or housebound patients, or even busy parents who can’t get to the doctor’s office.

Chiropractors appear to be even more willing to try this creative approach to patient care. One DC used his blog to explain to patients that that he was going to start making house calls. He totaled the time it takes for a patient to have a regular in-office appointment and, with the preparation, driving, and waiting, it came to about an hour just to see the doctor for 5-10 minutes. “There are tools that I will not be able to take with me,” he explained to patients, “but as a chiropractor and a massage therapist all I really need is my hands. I have my portable table …

so, if you need a chiropractor or massage therapist, but don’t like the hassle of driving to an office and waiting to be seen, give me a call. Or if you know someone who is housebound due to pain. I will also be working with hospitals to treat people in urgent care centers and emergency rooms. I hope to be able to bring chiropractic to those who want it more conveniently or who can’t get to me.

Others are trying a variation on house calls and setting up mobile offices, complete with tables, selected equipment, and other supplies. In New Jersey, for instance, Demetrios Kydonieus, DC, drives around the area in his “Wellness Wagon.” Daren Bethia, DC, offers services “to make receiving chiropractic care convenient to the sick and shut in, the busy small business owner, the stay at home mom who is busy with the kids, those with limited transportation or anybody who needs immediate treatment, but can’t make it to our office.” He offers both chiropractic and personal training sessions to people in and around Charlotte, NC.

Obviously, mobile offices and making house calls isn’t for everyone and it’s too early to tell if they’re successful alternatives to traditional offices. Still, these are definitely interesting ideas that we’ll be seeing more of in the future. I invite anybody who’s tried either of them to let me know of their experiences.

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I think doctors that want some time out of office should definitely get out and do house calls they just need to be careful from a risk management point of view.

I enjoyed your article on Chiropractic Housecalls and have elected to go that route.
Can you give me any tips on your marketing strategy for such?


Dr. Alan Barr

I’ve never tried it myself, but if you Google chiropractic housecalls, you’ll locate a number of DCs who are doing it. You should contact them and see what advice they’d give you. Good luck and let me know the results!

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