11:21am

Tue May 10, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

The Doctor Will See You At Home, For A Price

Doctors who make house calls these days are often checking on the elderly who are ill with several chronic conditions.

But some doctors are offering house calls to other sick patients who have a tough time getting to the office: kids.

As any parent knows, children are walking petri dishes, breeding grounds for all manner of ailments, from colds to earaches to lice. Scheduling a doctor's office visit during the middle of a workday is a hassle. Scrambling to get to the emergency room in the middle of the night is worse. And for stay-at-home parents with more than one child, getting to any medical facility with kids in tow is a nightmare.

That's where house-call pediatricians come in.

For parents who can afford to pay top dollar — a single visit could cost more than $300 — these doctors make themselves available 24/7 for everything from routine sore throats to flare-ups of chronic conditions like asthma. They may also care for children with complex medical problems or autism.

For the past two years, Dr. Edward Kulich has run a house-call practice, KidsHousecalls, around New York City. Many of the children he sees are regulars, often with chronic medical problems, for whom he's a familiar face in the family home.

He cited the example of one of his patients, a child with a heart condition whose parents called one night because he had stomach flu and wouldn't stop vomiting. Kulich visited the home, gave the child an anti-vomiting medication, consulted with the family's gastroenterologist, and kept close tabs on him over the next few days, thus avoiding what would otherwise have surely been a trip to the emergency room. He doesn't take insurance, but says that the patients file claims on an out-of-network basis.

"I do everything a primary care doctor does in the office, and then some," he says.

Dr. Kulich has started a group for other house-call pediatricians who have similar practices, the American Academy of Concierge Pediatricians.

If the cost for a visit from a pediatrician isn't in your budget and you're more likely to need only an occasional visit for a scratchy throat or rash, WhiteGlove House Call Health offers the convenience of a house call at a lower price. Available in Texas, Arizona and Massachusetts now, the company plans to expand into five to seven more markets by year's end, says Bob Fabbio, the company co-founder and CEO.

WhiteGlove uses nurse practitioners, not physicians, and is available from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. every day of the year. They diagnose and treat both children and adults for $35 a visit, which includes generic prescription medications.

WhiteGlove is generally offered through employers and insurers, who pay a annual fee of $300 per member. Individuals can sign up for $420 a year.

"We're like Costco for healthcare," says Fabbio. "You pay an affordable fee and then you get all the services you need." Copyright 2011 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/.