In the past, both eastern and western doctors used to make house calls, rather than run static clinics that patients were required to travel to. This allowed doctors to treat patients in the comfort of their homes, and even see several members of a single family all at once.
It was not until the 1960s that the practice of doctors running their own clinics became more widespread and popular. In essence, the healthcare industry was becoming more professional and efficient in their treatments. However, the up-scaling of medical services also means that patients become distant from their doctors and the whole relationship becomes cold and unemotional.
The practice of going to hospitals and clinics have also proven challenging for many patients who are too weak, elderly, or too ill to travel. These and other reasons may explain why the option of doctors making house calls is fast coming back into practice.
Technology has now made it possible for a revolutionary change to occur in the healthcare industry, where patients who fall sick no longer have to be forced to travel. With the advent of many mobile phone apps, patients now have the option of calling for a doctor to visit them at home.
Many of these apps function in a similar manner to ride-sharing apps like Uber. Doctors sign up as ‘mobile doctors’ and patients can request for them to provide consultation wherever the patients may be. This system has many benefits, but there are some security concerns as well.
Of course, the bulk of these apps have transparent check and balance systems whereby their mobile doctors are rated based on attitude, punctuality, professionalism and so forth. Payments are made in a transparent manner too, which is through the app itself.
These on-demand doctor apps go by several names, like Help in the USA, GetDoc in Malaysia, and so on. Each offer different perks for their users but the basic principles remain the same. Wherever a patient is, they can put up a request for a doctor, and a nearby doctor will answer the call, meeting their needs.
These apps provide many benefits not just for patients, but doctors as well. It represents an avenue for doctors to earn some extra income, especially if they’re not attached (or don’t want to be attached) to a hospital or clinic. It also allows doctors more flexible hours, meaning that the more they work, the more they earn, just like ride-sharing drivers.
On the patients’ end, these apps offer a good option, especially for medical situations when they’re abroad or in an unfamiliar location. They know that the doctors on these apps have a certain level of trustworthiness as they have been rated by previous patients and screened by the app creators, so it provides some kind of consistency and constancy no matter where the patients are.
The other obvious benefit for patients would be the convenience of the whole set-up as not all patients are able to leave their homes, especially elderly patients. Additionally, these apps offer payment schemes that are compatible with many patients’ medical insurance plan, as well as offer multiple payment options.
However, there are limitations to these house call apps, as house calling doctors may not be able to perform important procedures or tests like X-Rays, MRIs or the like. Also, patients will still have to report to hospitals for surgeries and other procedures that have to be done in operating theaters.
Additionally, some doctors aren’t too keen on signing up as part of these apps as it involves traveling, with many of them preferring to stay in the comfort of their air-conditioned or heated offices for the duration of their work day.
House call apps can only function as a primary health care service as of now, but it is gaining traction and some clinics and hospitals are recording slightly lower patient counts. It will be interesting to see the developments these apps offer in the future.
Gentle reminder: The information on this article is not meant to replace a qualified healthcare professional and should not be considered as professional advice. Please seek appropriate medical help when necessary.