KCBS Cover Story: Return Of The House Call
SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – For those too young to remember, once upon a time doctors really did make house calls. In the Bay Area, they’re starting to do it again – and it may even become a more common practice once President Barack Obama’s health care reform law takes full effect.
Imagine an emergency room doctor coming to your house to take care of you. No, this isn’t the 1950s. It’s really happening these days, thanks to a startup company known as ER Direct.
“It’s a mobile house call service, we provide the same level of care that you would normally get in an ER for all urgent care level visits, and we obviously have our limitations because we operate out of the back of our cars,” explained physician’s assistant Sean Parkin.
Parkin does manage to pack an awful lot into his Toyota Prius – everything from IV bags to wound care bags and orthopedic kits. There are instruments included for draining wounds, for instance.
“We treat lacerations, we treat bronchitis, pneumonia as long as it’s not too serious. We treat dehydration and vomiting, diarrhea,” he said. “If you cut your finger when you are cooking dinner, we’re the people that you want to call. If you cut your finger off trimming your hedges, you probably want to go to the ER.”
Parkin and Caesar Djavaherian, M.D. still have “regular” jobs at local emergency rooms, but they founded ER Direct because they see their hospital patients paying what they call “Four Seasons prices for Motel 6 health care.”
“So we started this service so that people wouldn’t have to choose between their health and their financial health,” Dr. Djavaherian reasoned.
The base rate for ER Direct services is $275, and insurance is accepted. Patients thus far have run the gamut.
“It ranges from people who are unemployed with no health insurance, who know that if they go to the emergency room they’re going to get stuck with an extraordinarily large bill, then we see patients who are extraordinarily affluent and are using our service because they want the convenience and the concierge experience,” explained Parkin.
Dr. Djavaherian believes that when all Americans are required to have health insurance doctors’ offices will be even more overwhelmed, thus increasing the demand for him to show up at your door armed with his iPad and portable blood testing machine.
“It’s not the old fashioned house call,” he pointed out. “It’s a new twist to it.”
KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:
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