On Wednesday, I was able to participate in my first house call, with Dr. Henderson. When we got to the church where we were supposed to meet the interpreter and then go from there to the patient’s house, there was a misunderstanding and the lady whose home we meant to go walked in. After some confusion and talking back and forth through the interpreter, we were able to communicate our desire to talk to her in her own home. She cheerfully invited us and so we piled into the cars to head for her apartment.
As I watched this happen, I wondered why it was so important to Dr. Henderson that we go to her home. She was there, we were there, it made more sense to just treat her there as she was expecting us to. We went through an awful lot of hassle to drive a few miles down the road to do the exact same thing.
Once we got in the apartment, took our shoes off, sat down on the chairs the family pulled out for us, and started talking to her, I realized why the doctor cared so much that the visit be in the patient’s home. Sitting in her living room, we were able to hear about her family, we saw pictures of them on her walls and heard stories of the major moments in her life they depicted. We were able to get a better feel for her diet. We saw exactly what and how much she was eating. It gave us a much bigger sense of who the patient was as a whole, not just as a list of symptoms. It was personal, conversational, and relaxed. The patient felt heard, and the doctor was able to better judge where she was.
I saw that the point of the house call was to invest more in the patient. A doctor could address the patients concerns more easily and more quickly in the clinic. A house call isn’t about efficiency. It was about getting to know her, to step into her life, and to take the extra step in caring for her as a person. There is an added element of love in being willing to drive the extra miles, take your shoes off, and listen for awhile that often gets left out of a standard office visit.