What Are Pediatric House Calls?
Ever heard of pediatric house calls? Maybe you didn’t think they were a thing these days. Our society has become used to scheduling an appointment with a pediatrician, waiting days or even weeks for the appointment, loading kids into the car and driving to the pediatrician’s office, waiting in a lobby and then a patient room to see the provider, and then spending a few minutes with the pediatrician. It can be exhausting, taking up hours in your schedule from start to finish.
Pediatric house calls change how children see the pediatrician. Instead of your child going to see the provider, the provider comes to see your child in the comfort of your own home. As a parent or caregiver, all you have to do is schedule a pediatric house call and go on with your day until the pediatrician rings your doorbell. The provider brings all of the necessary equipment and supplies they need to care for your child, spends as much time with your child as needed to provide care, and then they leave. You and your child never left your home.
For many pediatricians, transitioning to a house-call model gives them what they love most about practicing medicine: more time with patients. They have more flexibility in their schedule and a better work-life balance. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons doctors made approximately 2.5 million house calls in the U.S. the last time it was measured in 2015.
When Pediatric House Calls Make Sense
Families choose to have their pediatrician come to them for multiple reasons, including convenience, faster appointment times, ease of visit, and minimizing interaction with other sick children. This last point is particularly top of mind during the COVID-19 pandemic. A U.S. News & World Report featured an article about the rise in pediatric house calls amid COVID-19 concerns. Fears of exposure to the virus keep parents home, delaying well-check appointments and vaccinations. Many pediatricians have shifted their model, performing house calls for the first time to ensure their patients don’t miss their appointments.
Let’s face it: taking kids to the doctor’s office isn’t fun. Kids don’t like it. Parents don’t like it. House calls, on the other hand, enable parent and patient to remain home as they wait for the pediatrician. This convenience can be especially valuable if you have multiple children or a newborn baby. Packing up all of the baby gear and likely missing a nap or a feeding is never ideal.
Instead, you can schedule the home visit when it’s convenient for you and you don’t have to load a baby or a sick child into the car and wait in a crowded waiting room. Your baby can even sleep up until the provider arrives. No uncomfortable waiting room chairs or hard exam tables.
Even if your child isn’t ill, your pediatrician can conduct their regular well check, administer vaccines, and watch your child in their natural environment to gain deeper insight into your child’s behavior, eating habits, and much more. As your pediatrician gets to know your child on a more personal level, they establish a deeper relationship with you and your child.
Pediatricians who offer house calls sometimes also provide parents with ways to reach them 24/7 without having to call a nurse line. You may be able to contact your pediatrician directly through calls, texts, and instant video visits. Knowing you can reach your provider when you need them most brings peace of mind.
Faster Appointment Times
When you call your in-office pediatrician, how long does it take to get an appointment? Because providers who offer pediatric house calls are more flexible and typically see fewer patients a day, you are likely to get a same-day or next-day appointment.
Some house call pediatricians also provide 24/7 telemedicine appointments, sometimes within an hour or so of an appointment request. Many issues do not require a pediatric house call, such as a rash, sleeping or eating issues, allergies, colds and coughs, sore throat, and insect bites.
Ease of Visit
Ease of visit may fit under the “convenience” benefit, but there’s more to it than convenience. As a parent or caregiver, you likely understand that kids are kids. They don’t always behave in public and doctor’s offices often scare children. WebMD featured an article on a study that found half of 2- to 5-year olds are afraid of going to the doctor and some kids get so upset that 1 in 5 parents say it disrupts their appointment. The fear can be so great, parents avoid the doctor’s office altogether.
When your pediatrician comes to you, however, your child is in the comfort of their own home. They can snuggle with their stuffed animals in their own bed or sit at the kitchen counter and enjoy a snack while the pediatrician visits with them. Sure, they still may get that dreaded shot, but at least they aren’t in a strange place with a room of strangers.
Every time you walk into a pediatrician’s office, you are exposed to sick children. It’s great if the office offers a “sick” and “well” area in their lobby, but there’s no guarantee you or your child won’t come into contact with germs, viruses and bacteria. Even touching the doorknob or signing in poses a risk.
Staying at home to see the pediatrician nearly eliminates all exposure risks. Whether your child is well and you don’t want them to pick something up in a doctor’s office or your child is sick and you don’t want to expose others, having the doctor come to you is the smart thing to do.
But What Does It Cost?
The first thing most families ask when they consider pediatric house calls over traditional office visits is how much does it cost? It may sound like a luxury, but house calls are actually quite affordable, especially if you compare it to an emergency room visit.
Pediatricians who offer in-home visits vary in their pricing structure and some take insurance. Those who do may require that you pay an annual or monthly membership fee, around $100 per year, and then your insurance pays for the cost of the appointment as if it were an in-office appointment. This membership fee is often the same or less than traditional pediatric offices that require a “value-added” annual fee to cover their increased costs to maintain a physical office.
For so many reasons, pediatric house calls make sense. They are more accessible, convenient and affordable than ever before, giving parents more options in how they care for their children.