2008 Comeback Stories: The return of the house call

This post is part of our series about people, places and things that have found new life in 2008.

When I was growing up, our pediatrician lived two doors away. After hours, the doctor could usually be found toiling away in his garden. When one of the four kids in my family got sick, my mother would tell us to cut through the neighbor's backyard, and go tell the doc what was wrong, in order to avoid both the waiting room and the bill. Of course, the doctor made house calls if we were really sick. Such personalized medical care seems a nostalgic memory, but in some places, house calls are making a comeback.

From 1998 to 2004, the number of physician house calls increased 43% to two million annually, according to a 2006 study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). House calls by physician assistants and nurse practitioners also increased during that time.

So far, the trend seems to be most common in urban areas where emergency room waits seem endless and where it can also be difficult to get an appointment with a primary care doctor. "It's really designed for major urban markets where it's more difficult to get a doctor's appointment," says Kate Dussault, chief marketing officer for Sickday Medical House Calls, a team of six doctors and four physician assistants who offer acute medical care in Manhattan via house calls. In most cases, Sickday doctors arrive at your door (or your hotel room) within an hour or so of calling.