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Long-Term Care Planning: Doctor Home Visits

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A doctor making a home visit for a patient’s long-term care? That may sound like a scene from a 1940s movie, but in fact the number of doctors who see patients in their own homes has recently increased.

Usually doctors visit people who would have difficulty getting to an office or who are homebound for other reasons. Often doctors making home visits work in teams, so you get the added benefit of a nurse or physician's assistant and perhaps a social worker.

Home-visit programs may be organized by a hospital, by a large physician practice in the community, or by a health plan. These organizations want to keep people out of the hospital, where care is more costly and debilitating for the person.

Medicare is conducting a three-year demonstration project called Independence at Home to test whether home-based care by teams of doctors, nurses, and other clinicians can reduce hospitalization and costs.

Insurance coverage varies, but some doctors’ home visits can be covered under original (fee-for-service) Medicare. If you belong to a Medicare Advantage plan or have private insurance, check the plan. Physician visits are covered by Medicaid, but usually these visits are in a clinic or office. Some home-visit programs may accept Medicaid.

Here are some ways to identify a physician who makes home visits or a program in your area.

  • Some hospitals, academic medical centers, and health care systems have doctor visiting programs and doctors-in-training participate in home visits.

  • The American Academy of Home Care Physicians, founded in 1984, maintains a list by state and zip code of physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners who make home visits. The Academy does not endorse any of these practitioners, so it's up to you to check out qualifications and fees. You can find the list at their website.

  • Also check your local hospital and medical center for physician home-visit programs. Beyond home visits, physicians participate in home care by referring people to home care agencies for services, certifying their need forskilled care, and approving a plan of care.

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