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Nov 13 2017

Where Did The House Call Originate? A Dip Into The History Of An Iconic Service

Are House Calls back for good and what does this mean for the UHNW?

old photo of doctor examining a patient

Home visiting doctors accounted for around 40% of medical consultations back in the 60s. However, by the 80s this had fallen to less than 1%*; mainly due to restricted resources and growing populations.

Why did house call GPs stop being the norm?

The reason so many doctors made house calls and visited patients at home up until the 60s was actually due to inaccessibility and lack of fast transport options. If you lived in the 1800s, you would not be able to get on a horse with a splitting headache and this was well before the days of calling 999 / 911.

It was thus instilled in the training of doctors and GPs (family doctors) that home visits were a necessary part of their role. Even their doctor’s bags and vehicles were specially made – they had to be prepared for nearly everything. They would even have to deal with broken bones or childbirth.

While house calls reached peak levels in the 1800s and early 1900s, it steadily declined after this due to a lack of GPs among other factors. More and more doctors became specialists, meaning that they do not have the skills to deal with the vast array of demands faced by a GP when they arrive to see a patient at home.

Home Visits for the UHNW client in the 21st century

A house call doctor offers a variety of benefits to the UHNW client, which is often rare to find. Discretion is key; however so is convenience, comfort and privacy. More time with the doctor is required (instead of a 15-minute consultation) and it is about the quality and prompt responses.

Office or clinic visits are much less desirable as a result, and due to restricted time, tight schedules and the unpredictability of a daily location, calling a GP out to the patient seems to the be only way. This could even involve hotel visits by the GP.

However, it is to be noted that while the UHNW continue to use home visiting doctors, due to faster-paced lifestyles it is becoming increasingly common for new services and “apps” to be created offering house calls for a lower price to the wider population.

This can often mean seeing inexperienced GPs who are paid less; which directly impacts the level of service provided as it is only marginally better than the clinic appointment option. [Some house call doctor apps are even cheaper].

You may also come across ‘one-man shows’. These could be doctors who claim to be offering concierge medicine – or claim to be a concierge doctor – while they work solely by themselves trying to manage 1000 things. This means all the paperwork, organisation, marketing, protocols management along with medical care and co-ordination lies in the hands of one person. As it is well known, concierge practices are supposed to provide doctors with the luxury of time to manage their patients at a remarkably personal, holistic level – instead of trying to manage too much and therefore offering a lesser service.

The UHNW individual and their team must be careful when choosing which service to go for, as although visiting doctors are making a comeback – it’s not necessarily in the right form.


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