New House-Call Program Helps Those Who Have Few Alternatives

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CHARLOTTE – The medical house call – nearly obsolete a few decades ago – is back for some Novant Health patients who need it most.

Novant Health recently launched “House Calls,” its program to bring health care services to patients 65 and older, who, for whatever reason, have existing care gaps and opportunities, or are otherwise at high risk for less-than-optimal health outcomes.. The program, which has specific eligibility criteria and does not currently have a sign-up option, is also available to patients who have recently been discharged from the hospital and are unable to receive follow-up care, due to their health condition or other barriers.

Currently, it administers care to patients in Mecklenburg and Rowan counties.

The program could expand to other counties and include additional providers. Novant Health targets patients whose care gaps and/or risk level indicate that access to the program could be beneficial. These could include everything from an uncontrolled chronic condition to missed appointments, to barriers to getting to a clinic. It also allows patients to receive a COVID-19 vaccination at home.

“I can’t get out because I’m wheelchair-bound,” said Yvonne Briscoe, 66, of Charlotte, who is recovering from a stroke in January. “I’ve had trouble moving my left side, and I’ve had to cancel a couple of appointments.”

Instead, Novant Health came to her.

Pacharo Ndupu, a Novant Health nurse practitioner, visited Briscoe’s east Charlotte home in late February for a wellness checkup and administered a COVID-19 vaccination into Briscoe’s left arm. Ndupu arrived carrying a case full of medical equipment, and a cooler that contained the vaccine.

The visit and the shot were welcome.

“I feel more protected now,” Briscoe said. “It’s been hard because I can’t see my family and my grandchildren. My daughters are staying away from the house because they don’t want me to get sick.”

Novant Health, which began the home visit program last September, reaches out to patients who haven’t received care in the past 18 months. Avoiding preventive care can make existing health conditions worse, and undiagnosed conditions may go untreated until they cause serious issues.

 Dr. Michael Hoben
Dr. Michael Hoben

“We felt like it was time to robustly launch the program to see if we could reach those patients before they run into crisis and end up needing the emergency room or the hospital,” said Dr. Michael Hoben, a senior physician executive in the Novant Health Medical Group. “We want to head that off beforehand, and help them on their journey to great health.”

The practitioner who does the home wellness exams assesses the patient for any social issues that might make it difficult to stay healthy, like access to healthy food, safe housing or reliable transportation. If issues are detected, Novant Health can make a connection to a community health worker that can help the patient.

Adding a COVID-19 vaccination to the trip solves the issue for patients who perhaps have transportation difficulties, or are home-bound, or worry about navigating a mass vaccination site.

“We’re doing this to enhance the care of the vulnerable population that has a high risk of complications,” Hoben said. “In the initial part of this program, we want to be more proactive than reactive, and try to reach out to those patients before they end up needing a higher level of care.”

Hoben said the program “absolutely” will extend beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. Video visits with physicians skyrocketed since the pandemic began, but not every patient has the access or ability to do that. Novant Health’s house call program bridges the gap to offer access to quality health care and better outcomes for patients.

If you are 65 and older, and have barriers to coming in for health care, call your physician’s office and let them know. Novant Health will work to ensure you’re getting the care you need.

Caption, top photo: Pacharo Ndupu, a Novant Health nurse practitioner, recently visited patient Anita Nyland at her retirement center apartment.

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