Caring for an aging or seriously ill loved one while juggling family and work responsibilities can be an overwhelming and daunting task. Yet imagine that instead of coaxing a sick loved one into a car or medical transport you can simply put some tea on and wait for a knock on the door. And imagine on the other side of the door is a doctor toting a black bag, a scene reminiscent of a Norman Rockwell painting. This image may seem like an old-fashioned one, yet house calls are alive and well today thanks to VNA Health Group’s Visiting Physician Services team.
“A lot of the patients that we see remember when they were a child and the doctor came to the house, so there’s a familiarity there and a sense of comfort,” says Dr. Evan Rubin, Medical Director for Visiting Physician Services (VPS).
For many geriatric patients who increasingly struggle with trips to the doctor’s office or clinic because they have mobility issues, chronic illnesses or simply are unable to leave the home, a visiting doctor is a lifeline, enabling them to receive comprehensive care without leaving the comfort and safety of their home. These home visits can also provide a major relief for caregivers, whose burden is lessened when they no longer need to arrange transportation for routine checkups and tests, or worry about how they are going to get mom or dad out of the house safely. And in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, safety has become the number one priority in healthcare, especially among this most vulnerable population.
There’s another and much deeper benefit to the service: Seeing these patients in their everyday surroundings enables VPS to take a holistic approach in tailoring an individualized care plan to the patient’s life, needs and history. It offers insight into key social and environmental factors that may be missed in an office or clinic setting. Taking into account the bigger picture allows clinicians to provide better care for their patients, mostly all who are living with multiple, chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or dementia.
“I’m able to spend time with the patient and family and have learned to respect their priorities and wishes,” says Rubin, “to know when to become aggressive with medicines and when to make the patient comfortable.”
Visiting Physician’s mission for over 25 years has focused on providing accessible medical care to frail, elderly patients who can no longer regularly get out to see their doctors. House calls are typically made during regular business hours; however, clinicians are on call 24/7 via telephone to assist patients with after-hours issues and concerns. Telehealth visits are also available to help fill in between in-person visits. VPS becomes the primary care provider, taking a preventative and therapeutic approach that ensures patients stay as healthy as possible. This includes helping to keep patients out of the hospital and emergency room.
Seven physicians and 30 nurse practitioners and physician assistants drive around the state seeing 3,400 patients over the course of a year, providing in-home physicals, diagnostic testing, medication management, wound care, diabetic assessments and much more. They work hand in hand with VNA Health Group and other agencies to coordinate services such as physical, occupational and speech therapy as well as visiting podiatrists and dentists. Caregivers can count on the staff to help order new medical equipment like hospital beds and wheelchairs that might be needed in the home. And the best part is that VPS accepts traditional Medicare and Horizon Managed Care for their house call services.
All in all, it’s a comprehensive array of healthcare services. But it’s more than just care: they form bonds with patients and those who watch over them at home. “As I visit with my patients, I listen to stories about their grandchildren or life experiences,” says Rubin. “We are often seen as extended family.”
The same goes for the relationship built with the person providing care, whether it’s a spouse or adult child or even an aide. “With a home visit, I can see what level of health the caregiver also has,” stated Rubin. “At a lot of times, the communication is with the caregiver.”
Getting to know a patient’s entire support system and seeing how everyone’s routines function at home gives the doctor a sense of what’s working well, and if anyone is in danger of being overtaxed. VPS clinicians are prepared to encounter, and attend to, a unique situation at each visit. “You never know what you are going to find behind each door,” Rubin says. “Every patient has their own story.”
Headquartered in Holmdel, VPS provides services in eight New Jersey counties. Call them today at 732-571-1000 for more information or visit www.vnahg.org/vps.