On June 30, two board certified Family Nurse Practitioners, both Battle Ground residents, opened their doors to their new business – Heart and Soul Housecall Providers – and a decades-old concept in healthcare that is seeing a resurgence.
Suzie Lutts, co-owner of Heart and Soul Housecall Providers, echoes recent articles about the benefits of making house calls.
“You learn so much about a person in one hour (at home) that it would take a couple years to learn in a clinic. (There’s a) better chance of seeing other things that can impact their total health by the way they live,” Lutts said.
Doctors and nurses offering in-home visits can provide a great deal of the same services a patient can expect in a clinic setting. They’re able to provide comprehensive exams, order and evaluate lab and imaging work, prescribe medications, deliver immunizations and provide interim care during a time when a person is having difficulties leaving their home due to an injury or illness. Heart and Soul is able to be the primary provider or come into the home on a less routine basis and relay information to the primary provider.
Jill Carter, co-owner of Heart and Soul, sees house calls as a way to cut down on hospital stays and emergency room visits because regular medical visits can better control chronic conditions.
“Getting early intervention in the home facilitates greater quality of care. It’s something we can do and it’s something we’re passionate about,” Carter said.
In the beginning, the focus of Heart and Soul will be on Medicare and Medicaid patients. As Lutz explained it, access to this portion of the community is more limited due to the fact that the government has set reimbursement amounts for services that often times don’t meet the overhead of a traditional clinic setting so providers are faced with making the difficult choice to limit the percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients they’re able to see.
Carter experienced the challenges first-hand when she tried to help her father obtain care. It took two days of calling around to different offices to locate a provider able to accept Medicare/Medicaid coverage. According to Lutz, Heart and Soul doesn’t have a lot of overhead so working within the confines of Medicare/Medicaid is not an issue.
The government is aware of the situation and in June of 2012 rolled out the Independence at Home Demonstration, which includes 19 individual practices around the United States.
The Independence at Home Demonstration fact sheet states, “Home-based primary care allows healthcare providers to spend more time with their patients, perform assessments in a patient’s home, and assume greater accountability for all aspects of the patient’s care. This focus on timely and appropriate care is designed to improve overall quality of care and quality of life for patients served, while lowering healthcare costs by forestalling the need for care in institutional settings.”
Portland-based Housecall Providers was selected as a participant in this program being conducted by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. Although not a part of the three-year demonstration, Carter and Lutz are excited to be the ones to pioneer the concept here in Clark County.
When not providing the best care to the community that she knows how, Lutz enjoys traveling, camping, horseback riding, motorcycles and traditional rug hooking as well as her three dogs. She also cares for her soon-to-be, 80-year-old mother, Darla, and refers to her as “my first patient.”
Carter has three children who keep her “crazy busy.” Her oldest attends Clark College, another goes to Maple Grove and her third prefers to home school. Carter enjoys gardening, traveling and speaks Spanish due to the two years she lived in Central America and Mexico. Right now, most of her free time is taken up by reading textbooks until she completes her doctorate in the spring.
Lutz and Carter don’t see house calls replacing in-clinic medical treatment. They’re approaching it as a way to improve access for residents who, due to a medical condition, declining health or coverage issues just aren’t able to come to the doctor’s office.
“(We’re) another resource in the community for people. (We’re) trying to keep the community a little more healthy,’’ Carter said.
For more information about Heart and Soul Housecall Providers, go to www.hshousecallproviders.com.