Trends in physician house calls to Medicare beneficiaries

J Am Board Fam Med. Nov-Dec 2012;25(6):862-8. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2012.06.120046.


Objective: House calls (HCs) to older adults seemed to be headed for extinction in recent decades. HCs may be a tool to ensure access and reduce institutionalization of the elderly population. This study determines the number and distribution of HCs by physician specialty over time and analyzes associations of providing HCs with physician and area-level characteristics.

Methods: This study was a cross-sectional analysis of 3 complete Medicare Part B claims data for national state-representative samples of physicians in 2000, 2003, and 2006. Multilevel logistic regression determined associations between physician and area-level characteristics and provision of HCs in 2006.

Results: Physicians made 478,088 HCs in 2000; 700,661 in 2003; and 995,294 in 2006. Over the same period, the proportion of physicians making HCs decreased from 7.22 (standard error, ±0.20) to 5.26 (±0.19). Physicians in the top decile of HC volume made an increasing number of HCs (median, 56 in 2000 and 86 in 2006). In 2006, physicians who made HCs were more likely to be older, geriatricians, and osteopaths, be in solo practice, and reside in rural areas compared with those who did not make HCs.

Conclusions: Between 2000 and 2006, the number of physician HCs to Medicare beneficiaries more than doubled, whereas the number of physicians making HCs declined.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Services for the Aged / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Services for the Aged / trends*
  • House Calls / statistics & numerical data
  • House Calls / trends*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Medicare*
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Rural Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Rural Health Services / trends
  • United States
  • Urban Health Services / statistics & numerical data
  • Urban Health Services / trends