The doctor’s appointment by house call is not a lost tradition. Popular many decades ago, its merits are being recognized by physicians, patients and their caregivers.
Visiting Physician Services, or VPS, part of the Parker Advanced Care Institute at VNA Health Group, is a leading provider of such services in New Jersey, with a comprehensive list of services. It was founded in 1994 by Dr. Jon Salisbury in Monmouth County and, today, VPS employs eight board-certified physicians, four physician assistants and 25 nurse practitioners.
Based in Holmdel, VPS serves eight counties — including Bergen, Passaic, Essex, Union, Middlesex, eastern Somerset, Monmouth and Ocean — and is recognized by patients as their primary care physician. Its staff members currently care for 3,400 patients and make approximately 3,000 visits per month.
Visiting Physician Services focuses on older adult and homebound seniors who have difficulty getting to the doctor’s office and who would otherwise end up going to the emergency room for treatment.
House calls are an easy, convenient and safe way to deliver medical care, especially for seniors who can’t drive.
The doctors work Monday through Friday in areas near to where they live, so they can be very responsive. VPS also has on-call hours via telephone and can triage emergency calls and address acute situations. Staff members make regular monthly visits and patients are usually treated by the same doctor and nurse practitioner each time.
Appointments are typically scheduled within 48 hours. House calls eliminate unnecessary waiting time at doctors’ offices.
“They help alleviate the anxiety and stress of transporting a sick loved one back and forth to the doctor’s office or taking them for tests at an outside facility,” Donna Occhipinti, VPS director of communications, said.
Comprehensive list of conditions and services
Some of the most common medical conditions VPS manages include: Alzheimer’s disease & dementia; asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD; hypertension and stroke; congestive heart failure; diabetes; osteoarthritis; Parkinson’s disease; urinary disorders; and gait abnormalities.
Among the services provided are physical exams, treatment of chronic conditions, in-home testing such as bloodwork, X-rays, EKGs and ultrasounds, as well as wound care and telehealth.
VPS provides services through the VNA Health Group, including skilled nursing, hospice, physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. It can also arrange for additional in-home services such as podiatry, dental care, optometry, behavioral health and audiology services. Advance care planning, palliative and end-of life care are also offered.
Durable medical equipment such as beds, mattresses and wheelchairs can also be ordered, if needed.
VPS utilizes an outside mobile urgent care service that can visit patients with acute situations so they avoid hospitalizations and don’t have to visit emergency rooms.
Alex Binder, VPS vice president and practice manager, said: “The typical Medicare patient has a per capita cost of $12,500 per year. Yet, we take care of the elderly, chronically ill segment of that population, so the per capita cost for our patients is closer to $28,000.
“Our goal is to reduce that cost by at least 10% by ensuring that we provide high-quality, responsive care that is patient centered, and has an aim of keeping them out of the ‘industrial’ system.”
Visiting Physician Services helps to improve access to primary care by reaching out to a medically underserved population. Seeing patients in their everyday surroundings enables house call physicians to take a holistic approach in tailoring an individualized care plan to the patient’s life, needs and history.
“Our clinicians spend time with our patients and are almost seen as extended family, as they share stories about their grandkids and life experiences,” Occhipinti said. “This is meaningful, because many of our patients are isolated or live alone.”
Covered by Medicare
Medicare covers 80% of VPS’ fees, and the patient’s secondary insurance covers the remaining 20%, or it can be paid out of pocket. VPS also accepts several managed care plans, including Horizon, Amerigroup and Aetna Medicare.
This form of care is delivered nationwide. Non-New Jerseyans can visit the American Academy of Home Care Medicine website to learn about available practices out of state if they have loved ones living elsewhere.